The emergence of division of labour in forced associations of normally solitary ant queens

Jennifer Fewell, Robert Page

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    54 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    We tested the hypothesis that division of labour is an inescapable property of social groups, rather than an evolutionary event separate from sociality. We propose a variance-based emergent property model in which division of labour can spontaneously emerge when (1) individuals in a group vary in their intrinsic sensitivity to stimuli for a given task, and (2) the performance of a task by individuals with higher task sensitivities reduces performance of the task by the other group members. Under these conditions, the individuals with higher sensitivity become the task specialists. To determine if division of labour can occur in the absence of direct selection, we created artificial foundress associations (groups of queens during nest establishment) of the ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus, which has no history of cooperative colony founding. We compared the incidence of task specialization in this species to that in Pogonomyrmex californicus, in which foundress associations commonly occur. Levels of task specialization for nest excavation were high in both species, arguing that division of labour emerges in groups regardless of evolutionary history. Consistent with the variance-based model the role of nest excavation specialist in P. barbatus foundress associations could be predicted by both (1) differences in excavation roles in prior pairs and (2) variation in excavation activity while solitary. Furthermore, the assumption of the excavator role by one foundress dramatically reduced the performance of that task by the other foundress of the pair. We also found a strong negative relationship between excavation activity and foundress survival in P. barbatus, suggesting that division of labour in this context may act as a constraint on social evolution.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)537-548
    Number of pages12
    JournalEvolutionary Ecology Research
    Volume1
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Jul 1999

    Fingerprint

    polyethism
    Ants
    labor division
    queen insects
    Pogonomyrmex barbatus
    ant
    eclosion
    excavation
    Task Performance and Analysis
    nest
    nests
    Pogonomyrmex californicus
    colony founding
    excavators
    history
    History
    cooperatives
    Formicidae
    Incidence
    incidence

    Keywords

    • Division of labour
    • Emergent properties
    • Foundress associations
    • Pogonomyrmex barbatus
    • Self-organization
    • Social insects
    • Task specialization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Genetics
    • Ecology
    • Genetics(clinical)

    Cite this

    The emergence of division of labour in forced associations of normally solitary ant queens. / Fewell, Jennifer; Page, Robert.

    In: Evolutionary Ecology Research, Vol. 1, No. 5, 07.1999, p. 537-548.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    @article{1878858ad5154934a653b8d99df588f5,
    title = "The emergence of division of labour in forced associations of normally solitary ant queens",
    abstract = "We tested the hypothesis that division of labour is an inescapable property of social groups, rather than an evolutionary event separate from sociality. We propose a variance-based emergent property model in which division of labour can spontaneously emerge when (1) individuals in a group vary in their intrinsic sensitivity to stimuli for a given task, and (2) the performance of a task by individuals with higher task sensitivities reduces performance of the task by the other group members. Under these conditions, the individuals with higher sensitivity become the task specialists. To determine if division of labour can occur in the absence of direct selection, we created artificial foundress associations (groups of queens during nest establishment) of the ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus, which has no history of cooperative colony founding. We compared the incidence of task specialization in this species to that in Pogonomyrmex californicus, in which foundress associations commonly occur. Levels of task specialization for nest excavation were high in both species, arguing that division of labour emerges in groups regardless of evolutionary history. Consistent with the variance-based model the role of nest excavation specialist in P. barbatus foundress associations could be predicted by both (1) differences in excavation roles in prior pairs and (2) variation in excavation activity while solitary. Furthermore, the assumption of the excavator role by one foundress dramatically reduced the performance of that task by the other foundress of the pair. We also found a strong negative relationship between excavation activity and foundress survival in P. barbatus, suggesting that division of labour in this context may act as a constraint on social evolution.",
    keywords = "Division of labour, Emergent properties, Foundress associations, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, Self-organization, Social insects, Task specialization",
    author = "Jennifer Fewell and Robert Page",
    year = "1999",
    month = "7",
    language = "English (US)",
    volume = "1",
    pages = "537--548",
    journal = "Evolutionary Ecology Research",
    issn = "1522-0613",
    publisher = "Evolutionary Ecology Research",
    number = "5",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - The emergence of division of labour in forced associations of normally solitary ant queens

    AU - Fewell, Jennifer

    AU - Page, Robert

    PY - 1999/7

    Y1 - 1999/7

    N2 - We tested the hypothesis that division of labour is an inescapable property of social groups, rather than an evolutionary event separate from sociality. We propose a variance-based emergent property model in which division of labour can spontaneously emerge when (1) individuals in a group vary in their intrinsic sensitivity to stimuli for a given task, and (2) the performance of a task by individuals with higher task sensitivities reduces performance of the task by the other group members. Under these conditions, the individuals with higher sensitivity become the task specialists. To determine if division of labour can occur in the absence of direct selection, we created artificial foundress associations (groups of queens during nest establishment) of the ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus, which has no history of cooperative colony founding. We compared the incidence of task specialization in this species to that in Pogonomyrmex californicus, in which foundress associations commonly occur. Levels of task specialization for nest excavation were high in both species, arguing that division of labour emerges in groups regardless of evolutionary history. Consistent with the variance-based model the role of nest excavation specialist in P. barbatus foundress associations could be predicted by both (1) differences in excavation roles in prior pairs and (2) variation in excavation activity while solitary. Furthermore, the assumption of the excavator role by one foundress dramatically reduced the performance of that task by the other foundress of the pair. We also found a strong negative relationship between excavation activity and foundress survival in P. barbatus, suggesting that division of labour in this context may act as a constraint on social evolution.

    AB - We tested the hypothesis that division of labour is an inescapable property of social groups, rather than an evolutionary event separate from sociality. We propose a variance-based emergent property model in which division of labour can spontaneously emerge when (1) individuals in a group vary in their intrinsic sensitivity to stimuli for a given task, and (2) the performance of a task by individuals with higher task sensitivities reduces performance of the task by the other group members. Under these conditions, the individuals with higher sensitivity become the task specialists. To determine if division of labour can occur in the absence of direct selection, we created artificial foundress associations (groups of queens during nest establishment) of the ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus, which has no history of cooperative colony founding. We compared the incidence of task specialization in this species to that in Pogonomyrmex californicus, in which foundress associations commonly occur. Levels of task specialization for nest excavation were high in both species, arguing that division of labour emerges in groups regardless of evolutionary history. Consistent with the variance-based model the role of nest excavation specialist in P. barbatus foundress associations could be predicted by both (1) differences in excavation roles in prior pairs and (2) variation in excavation activity while solitary. Furthermore, the assumption of the excavator role by one foundress dramatically reduced the performance of that task by the other foundress of the pair. We also found a strong negative relationship between excavation activity and foundress survival in P. barbatus, suggesting that division of labour in this context may act as a constraint on social evolution.

    KW - Division of labour

    KW - Emergent properties

    KW - Foundress associations

    KW - Pogonomyrmex barbatus

    KW - Self-organization

    KW - Social insects

    KW - Task specialization

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0004469838&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0004469838&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    M3 - Article

    VL - 1

    SP - 537

    EP - 548

    JO - Evolutionary Ecology Research

    JF - Evolutionary Ecology Research

    SN - 1522-0613

    IS - 5

    ER -