Social enforcement depending on the stage of colony growth in an ant.
ABSTRACT: Altruism is a paradox in Darwinian evolution. Policing is an important mechanism of the evolution and maintenance of altruism. A recently developed dynamic game model incorporating colony demography and inclusive fitness predicts that, in hymenopteran social insects, policing behaviour enforcing reproductive altruism in group members depends strongly on the colony growth stage, with strong policing as the colony develops and a relaxation of policing during the reproductive phase. Here, we report clear evidence supporting this prediction. In the ant Diacamma sp., reproduction by workers was suppressed by worker policing when the colony was small, whereas in large, mature colonies worker policing was relaxed and worker-produced males emerged. Conditional expression of traits can provide strong empirical evidence for natural selection theory if the expression pattern is precisely predicted by the theory, and our results illustrate the importance of intracolony population dynamics in the evolution of social systems.
Project description:For honey bee and other social insect colonies the 'queen substance' regulates colony reproduction rendering workers functionally sterile. The evolution of worker reproductive altruism is explained by inclusive fitness theory, but little is known of the genes involved or how they regulate the phenotypic expression of altruism. We previously showed that application of honeybee queen pheromone to virgin fruit flies suppresses fecundity. Here we exploit this finding to identify genes associated with the perception of an ovary-inhibiting social pheromone. Mutational and RNAi approaches in Drosophila reveal that the olfactory co-factor Orco together with receptors Or49b, Or56a and Or98a are potentially involved in the perception of queen pheromone and the suppression of fecundity. One of these, Or98a, is known to mediate female fly mating behaviour, and its predicted ligand is structurally similar to a methyl component of the queen pheromone. Our novel approach to finding genes associated with pheromone-induced sterility implies conserved reproductive regulation between social and pre-social orders, and further helps to identify candidate orthologues from the pheromone-responsive pathway that may regulate honeybee worker sterility.
Project description:Mutual policing is an important mechanism that maintains social harmony in group-living organisms by suppressing the selfish behavior of individuals. In social insects, workers police one another (worker-policing) by preventing individual workers from laying eggs that would otherwise develop into males. Within the framework of Hamilton's rule there are two explanations for worker-policing behavior. First, if worker reproduction is cost-free, worker-policing should occur only where workers are more closely related to queen- than to worker-produced male eggs (relatedness hypothesis). Second, if there are substantial costs to unchecked worker reproduction, worker-policing may occur to counteract these costs and increase colony efficiency (efficiency hypothesis). The first explanation predicts that patterns of the parentage of males (male parentage) are associated with relatedness, whereas the latter does not. We have investigated how male parentage varies with colony kin structure and colony size in 50 species of ants, bees, and wasps in a phylogenetically controlled comparative analysis. Our survey revealed that queens produced the majority of males in most of the species and that workers produced more than half of the males in less than 10% of species. Moreover, we show that male parentage does not vary with relatedness as predicted by the relatedness hypothesis. This indicates that intra- and interspecific variation in male parentage cannot be accounted for by the relatedness hypothesis alone and that increased colony efficiency is an important factor responsible for the evolution of worker-policing. Our study reveals greater harmony and more complex regulation of reproduction in social insect colonies than that expected from simple theoretical expectations based on relatedness only.
Project description:Monogamy is associated with sibling-directed altruism in multiple animal taxa, including insects, birds and mammals. Inclusive-fitness theory readily explains this pattern by identifying high relatedness as a promoter of altruism. In keeping with this prediction, monogamy should promote the evolution of voluntary sterility in insect societies if sterile workers make for better helpers. However, a recent mathematical population-genetics analysis failed to identify a consistent effect of monogamy on voluntary worker sterility. Here, we revisit that analysis. First, we relax genetic assumptions, considering not only alleles of extreme effect-encoding either no sterility or complete sterility-but also alleles with intermediate effects on worker sterility. Second, we broaden the stability analysis-which focused on the invasibility of populations where either all workers are fully sterile or all workers are fully reproductive-to identify where intermediate pure or mixed evolutionarily stable states may occur. Third, we consider a broader range of demographically explicit ecological scenarios relevant to altruistic worker non-reproduction and to the evolution of eusociality more generally. We find that, in the absence of genetic constraints, monogamy always promotes altruistic worker sterility and may inhibit spiteful worker sterility. Our extended analysis demonstrates that an exact population-genetics approach strongly supports the prediction of inclusive-fitness theory that monogamy promotes sib-directed altruism in social insects.
Project description:Altruism between close relatives can be easily explained. However, paradoxes arise when organisms divert altruism towards more distantly related recipients. In some social insects, workers drift extensively between colonies and help raise less related foreign brood, seemingly reducing inclusive fitness. Since being highlighted by W. D. Hamilton, three hypotheses (bet hedging, indirect reciprocity and diminishing returns to cooperation) have been proposed for this surprising behaviour. Here, using inclusive fitness theory, we show that bet hedging and indirect reciprocity could only drive cooperative drifting under improbable conditions. However, diminishing returns to cooperation create a simple context in which sharing workers is adaptive. Using a longitudinal dataset comprising over a quarter of a million nest cell observations, we quantify cooperative payoffs in the Neotropical wasp Polistes canadensis, for which drifting occurs at high levels. As the worker-to-brood ratio rises in a worker's home colony, the predicted marginal benefit of a worker for expected colony productivity diminishes. Helping related colonies can allow effort to be focused on related brood that are more in need of care. Finally, we use simulations to show that cooperative drifting evolves under diminishing returns when dispersal is local, allowing altruists to focus their efforts on related recipients. Our results indicate the power of nonlinear fitness effects to shape social organization, and suggest that models of eusocial evolution should be extended to include neglected social interactions within colony networks.
Project description:A characteristic of eusocial bees is a reproductive division of labor in which one or a few queens monopolize reproduction, while her worker daughters take on reproductively altruistic roles within the colony. The evolution of worker reproductive altruism involves indirect selection for the coordinated expression of genes that regulate personal reproduction, but evidence for this type of selection remains elusive. In this study, we tested whether genes coexpressed under queen-induced worker sterility show evidence of adaptive organization within a model brain transcriptional regulatory network (TRN). If so, this structured pattern would imply that indirect selection on nonreproductive workers has influenced the functional organization of genes within the network, specifically to regulate the expression of sterility. We found that literature-curated sets of candidate genes for sterility, ranging in size from 18 to 267, show strong evidence of clustering within the three-dimensional space of the TRN. This finding suggests that our candidate sets of genes for sterility form functional modules within the living bee brain's TRN. Moreover, these same gene sets colocate to a single, albeit large, region of the TRN's topology. This spatially organized and convergent pattern contrasts with a null expectation for functionally unrelated genes to be haphazardly distributed throughout the network. Our meta-genomic analysis therefore provides first evidence for a truly "social transcriptome" that may regulate the conditional expression of honeybee worker sterility.
Project description:In eusocial insects the production of daughters is generally restricted to mated queens, and unmated workers are functionally sterile. The evolution of this worker sterility has been plausibly explained by kin selection theory [Hamilton W (1964) J Theor Biol 7:1-52], and many traits have evolved to prevent conflict over reproduction among the females in an insect colony. In honeybees (Apis mellifera), worker reproduction is regulated by the queen, brood pheromones, and worker policing. However, workers of the Cape honeybee, Apis mellifera capensis, can evade this control and establish themselves as social parasites by activating their ovaries, parthenogenetically producing diploid female offspring (thelytoky) and producing queen-like amounts of queen pheromones. All these traits have been shown to be strongly influenced by a single locus on chromosome 13 [Lattorff HMG, et al. (2007) Biol Lett 3:292-295]. We screened this region for candidate genes and found that alternative splicing of a gene homologous to the gemini transcription factor of Drosophila controls worker sterility. Knocking out the critical exon in a series of RNAi experiments resulted in rapid worker ovary activation-one of the traits characteristic of the social parasites. This genetic switch may be controlled by a short intronic splice enhancer motif of nine nucleotides attached to the alternative splice site. The lack of this motif in parasitic Cape honeybee clones suggests that the removal of nine nucleotides from the altruistic worker genome may be sufficient to turn a honeybee from an altruistic worker into a parasite.
Project description:The evolution of altruism-costly self-sacrifice in the service of others-has puzzled biologists since The Origin of Species. For half a century, attempts to understand altruism have developed around the concept that altruists may help relatives to have extra offspring in order to spread shared genes. This theory-known as inclusive fitness-is founded on a simple inequality termed Hamilton's rule. However, explanations of altruism have typically not considered the stochasticity of natural environments, which will not necessarily favour genotypes that produce the greatest average reproductive success. Moreover, empirical data across many taxa reveal associations between altruism and environmental stochasticity, a pattern not predicted by standard interpretations of Hamilton's rule. Here we derive Hamilton's rule with explicit stochasticity, leading to new predictions about the evolution of altruism. We show that altruists can increase the long-term success of their genotype by reducing the temporal variability in the number of offspring produced by their relatives. Consequently, costly altruism can evolve even if it has a net negative effect on the average reproductive success of related recipients. The selective pressure on volatility-suppressing altruism is proportional to the coefficient of variation in population fitness, and is therefore diminished by its own success. Our results formalize the hitherto elusive link between bet-hedging and altruism, and reveal missing fitness effects in the evolution of animal societies.
Project description:Division of labour is central to the ecological success of eusocial insects, yet the evolutionary factors driving increases in complexity in division of labour are little known. The size-complexity hypothesis proposes that, as larger colonies evolve, both non-reproductive and reproductive division of labour become more complex as workers and queens act to maximize inclusive fitness. Using a statistically robust phylogenetic comparative analysis of social and environmental traits of species within the ant tribe Attini, we show that colony size is positively related to both non-reproductive (worker size variation) and reproductive (queen-worker dimorphism) division of labour. The results also suggested that colony size acts on non-reproductive and reproductive division of labour in different ways. Environmental factors, including measures of variation in temperature and precipitation, had no significant effects on any division of labour measure or colony size. Overall, these results support the size-complexity hypothesis for the evolution of social complexity and division of labour in eusocial insects. Determining the evolutionary drivers of colony size may help contribute to our understanding of the evolution of social complexity.
Project description:Kin selection and inclusive fitness are thought to be key factors explaining the reproductive altruism displayed by workers in eusocial insect species. However, when a colony's queen has mated with <2 males, workers may increase their fitness by producing their own male offspring. Conversely, when the queen has mated with ?2 males, workers are expected to increase their inclusive fitness by eschewing the production of their sons and preventing other workers from reproducing as well. Here, we investigated sociogenetic structure and worker reproduction in the red honey ant, Melophorus bagoti. Morphometric analyses revealed that workers belong to one of two distinct subcastes: they are either majors or minors. Using DNA microsatellite markers, we showed that all the colonies had a single, multiple-mated queen and that there was no relationship between worker patriline and worker subcaste. Furthermore, we found that workers were producing males in the presence of the queen, which contrasts with the predictions of inclusive fitness theory. Although our results are based on a small sample, they can serve as the foundation for future research examining worker reproduction in M. bagoti.
Project description:The question of how altruism can evolve despite its local disadvantage to selfishness has produced a wealth of theoretical and empirical research capturing the attention of scientists across disciplines for decades. One feature that has remained consistent through this outpouring of knowledge has been that researchers have looked to the altruists themselves for mechanisms by which altruism can curtail selfishness. An alternative perspective may be that just as altruists want to limit selfishness in the population, so may the selfish individuals themselves. These alternative perspectives have been most evident in the fairly recent development of enforcement strategies. Punishment can effectively limit selfishness in the population, but it is not free. Thus, when punishment evolves among altruists, the double costs of exploitation from cheaters and punishment make the evolution of punishment problematic. Here we show that punishment can more readily invade selfish populations when associated with selfishness, whereas altruistic punishers cannot. Thereafter, the establishment of altruism because of enforcement by selfish punishers provides the ideal invasion conditions for altruistic punishment, effectively creating a transition of punishment from selfishness to altruistic. Thus, from chaotic beginnings, a little hypocrisy may go a long way in the evolution and maintenance of altruism.