Social dynamics drive selection in cooperative associations of ant queens

Rebecca M. Clark, Jennifer Fewell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    8 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Social dynamics, the emergent effects of interactions within structured groups, play a key role in shaping social phenotypes and fitness. We examined the potential positive and negative effects of social dynamics in simple groups, by creating social groups of harvester ant queens with 2 alternate nest-founding strategies, solitary versus cooperative. We compared social interactions, survival, and nest productivity of pairs containing queens from the cooperative founding population, the normally solitary founding population, or mixed pairs of the 2 types. Expressed social phenotypes of queens in pairs depended strongly on the lineage of the other queen. Two behaviors, aggression and brood care, showed simple social dynamical effects. Aggression escalated in pairs of normally solitary queens, whereas queens in cooperative pairs coordinated brood output, leading to more efficient worker production. These dynamics had context-based fitness consequences, such that cooperative queens gained a survival advantage in cooperative pairs, but neither type of queen experienced an advantage or disadvantage in "mixed" associations. The interplay between social dynamics and fitness in these associations provides an empirical example of social selection. It captures a likely scenario of the transition to and the early evolution of cooperative living, in which cooperative individuals interact with solitary individuals who lack a priori strategies for cooperation or cheating.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)117-123
    Number of pages7
    JournalBehavioral Ecology
    Volume25
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jul 2014

    Fingerprint

    queen insects
    cooperatives
    ant
    fitness
    aggression
    phenotype
    nest
    nests
    brood rearing
    social dynamics
    productivity
    effect

    Keywords

    • Ant foundress associations
    • Cooperation
    • Interacting phenotypes
    • Pleometrosis
    • Social dynamics
    • Social phenotype
    • Social selection

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology
    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

    Cite this

    Social dynamics drive selection in cooperative associations of ant queens. / Clark, Rebecca M.; Fewell, Jennifer.

    In: Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 25, No. 1, 07.2014, p. 117-123.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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