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Variance in bee species richness: seasonal, spatial, and temporal differences

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Bee communities form the keystone of many ecosystems through their pollination services. They are dynamic and often subject to significant changes due to several different factors such as climate, urban development, and other anthropogenic disturbances. As a result, the world

Bee communities form the keystone of many ecosystems through their pollination services. They are dynamic and often subject to significant changes due to several different factors such as climate, urban development, and other anthropogenic disturbances. As a result, the world has been experiencing a decline in bee diversity and abundance, which can have detrimental effects in the ecosystems they inhabit. One of the largest factors that impacts bees in today's world is the rapid urbanization of our planet, and it impacts the bee community in mixed ways. Not very much is understood about the bee communities that exist in urban habitats, but as urbanization is inevitably going to continue, knowledge on bee communities will need to strengthen. This study aims to determine the levels of variance in bee communities, considering multiple variables that bee communities can differ in. The following three questions are posed: do bee communities that are spatially separated differ significantly? Do bee communities that are separated by seasons differ significantly? Do bee communities that are separated temporally (by year, interannually) differ significantly? The procedure to conduct this experiment consists of netting and trapping bees at two sites at various times using the same methods. The data is then statistically analyzed for differences in abundance, richness, diversity, and species composition. After performing the various statistical analyses, it has been discovered that bee communities that are spatially separated, seasonally separated, or interannually separated do not differ significantly when it comes to abundance and richness. Spatially separated bee communities and interannually separated bee communities show a moderate level of dissimilarity in their species composition, while seasonally separated bee communities show a greater level of dissimilarity in species composition. Finally, seasonally separated bee communities demonstrate the greatest disparity of bee diversity, while interannually separated bee communities show the least disparity of bee diversity. This study was conducted over the time span of two years, and while the levels of variance of an urban area between these variables were determined, further variance studies of greater length or larger areas should be conducted to increase the currently limited knowledge of bee communities in urban areas. Additional studies on precipitation amounts and their effects on bee communities should be conducted, and studies from other regions should be taken into consideration while attempting to understand what is likely the most environmentally significant group of insects.

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2017-05

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The emergence and scaling of division of labor in insect societies

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Division of labor, whereby different group members perform different functions, is a fundamental attribute of sociality. It appears across social systems, from simple cooperative groups to complex eusocial colonies. A core challenge in sociobiology is to explain how patterns of

Division of labor, whereby different group members perform different functions, is a fundamental attribute of sociality. It appears across social systems, from simple cooperative groups to complex eusocial colonies. A core challenge in sociobiology is to explain how patterns of collective organization are generated. Theoretical models propose that division of labor self-organizes, or emerges, from interactions among group members and the environment; division of labor is also predicted to scale positively with group size. I empirically investigated the emergence and scaling of division of labor in evolutionarily incipient groups of sweat bees and in eusocial colonies of harvester ants. To test whether division of labor is an emergent property of group living during early social evolution, I created de novo communal groups of the normally solitary sweat bee Lasioglossum (Ctenonomia) NDA-1. A division of labor repeatedly arose between nest excavation and guarding tasks; results were consistent with hypothesized effects of spatial organization and intrinsic behavioral variability. Moreover, an experimental increase in group size spontaneously promoted higher task specialization and division of labor. Next, I examined the influence of colony size on division of labor in larger, more integrated colonies of the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. Division of labor scaled positively with colony size in two contexts: during early colony ontogeny, as colonies grew from tens to hundreds of workers, and among same-aged colonies that varied naturally in size. However, manipulation of colony size did not elicit a short-term response, suggesting that the scaling of division of labor in P. californicus colonies is a product of functional integration and underlying developmental processes, rather than a purely emergent epiphenomenon. This research provides novel insights into the organization of work in insect societies, and raises broader questions about the role of size in sociobiology.

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2011

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Causes and consequences of queen-number variation in the California harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus

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Social insect colonies exhibit striking diversity in social organization. Included in this overwhelming variation in structure are differences in colony queen number. The number of queens per colony varies both intra- and interspecifically and has major impacts on the social

Social insect colonies exhibit striking diversity in social organization. Included in this overwhelming variation in structure are differences in colony queen number. The number of queens per colony varies both intra- and interspecifically and has major impacts on the social dynamics of a colony and the fitness of its members. To understand the evolutionary transition from single to multi-queen colonies, I examined a species which exhibits variation both in mode of colony founding and in the queen number of mature colonies. The California harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus exhibits both variation in the number of queens that begin a colony (metrosis) and in the number of queens in adult colonies (gyny). Throughout most of its range, colonies begin with one queen (haplometrosis) but in some populations multiple queens cooperate to initiate colonies (pleometrosis). I present results that confirm co-foundresses are unrelated. I also map the geographic occurrence of pleometrotic populations and show that the phenomenon appears to be localized in southern California and Northern Baja California. Additionally, I provide genetic evidence that pleometrosis leads to primary polygyny (polygyny developing from pleometrosis) a phenomenon which has received little attention and is poorly understood. Phylogenetic and haplotype analyses utilizing mitochondrial markers reveal that populations of both behavioral types in California are closely related and have low mitochondrial diversity. Nuclear markers however, indicate strong barriers to gene flow between focal populations. I also show that intrinsic differences in queen behavior lead to the two types of populations observed. Even though populations exhibit strong tendencies on average toward haplo- or pleometrosis, within population variation exists among queens for behaviors relevant to metrosis and gyny. These results are important in understanding the dynamics and evolutionary history of a distinct form of cooperation among unrelated social insects. They also help to understand the dynamics of intraspecific variation and the conflicting forces of local adaptation and gene flow.

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2011

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From Alarm Propagation to Energy Metabolism: Mechanisms of Collective Colony Responses in Seed-harvester Ant Colonies, Pogonomyrmex Californicus

Description

The flexibility and robustness of social insect colonies, when they cope with challenges as integrated units, raise many questions, such as how hundreds and thousands of individual local responses are coordinated without a central controlling process. Answering such questions requires:

The flexibility and robustness of social insect colonies, when they cope with challenges as integrated units, raise many questions, such as how hundreds and thousands of individual local responses are coordinated without a central controlling process. Answering such questions requires: 1. Quantifiable collective responses of colonies under specific scenarios; 2. Decomposability of the collective colony-level response into individual responses; and 3. Mechanisms to integrate the colony- and individual-level responses. In the first part of my dissertation, I explore coordinated collective responses of colonies in during the alarm response to an alarmed nestmate (chapter 2&3). I develop a machine-learning approach to quantitatively estimate the collective and individual alarm response (chapter 2). Using this methodology, I demonstrate that colony alarm responses to the introduction of alarmed nestmates can be decomposed into immediately cascading, followed by variable dampening processes. Each of those processes are found to be modulated by variation in individual alarm responsiveness, as measured by alarm response threshold and persistence of alarm behavior. This variation is modulated in turn by environmental context, in particular with task-related social context (chapter 3). In the second part of my dissertation, I examine the mechanisms responsible for colonial changes in metabolic rate during ontogeny. Prior studies have found that larger ant colonies (as for larger organisms) have lower mass-specific metabolic rates, but the mechanisms remain unclear. In a 3.5-year study on 25 colonies, metabolic rates of colonies and colony components were measured during ontogeny (chapter 4). The scaling of metabolic rate during ontogeny was fit better by segmented regression or quadratic regression models than simple linear regression models, showing that colonies do not follow a universal power-law of metabolism during the ontogenetic development. Furthermore, I showed that the scaling of colonial metabolic rates can be primarily explained by changes in the ratio of brood to adult workers, which nonlinearly affects colonial metabolic rates. At high ratios of brood to workers, colony metabolic rates are low because the metabolic rate of larvae and pupae are much lower than adult workers. However, the high colony metabolic rates were observed in colonies with moderate brood: adult ratios, because higher ratios cause adult workers to be more active and have higher metabolic rates, presumably due to the extra work required to feed more brood.

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2021

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Ecological drivers and reproductive consequences of queen cooperation in the California harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus

Description

An important component of insect social structure is the number of queens that cohabitate in a colony. Queen number is highly variable between and within species. It can begin at colony initiation when often unrelated queens form cooperative social groups,

An important component of insect social structure is the number of queens that cohabitate in a colony. Queen number is highly variable between and within species. It can begin at colony initiation when often unrelated queens form cooperative social groups, a strategy known as primary polygyny. The non-kin cooperative groups formed by primary polygyny have profound effects on the social dynamics and inclusive fitness benefits within a colony. Despite this, the evolution of non-kin queen cooperation has been relatively overlooked in considerations of the evolution of cooperative sociality. To date, studies examining the costs and benefits of primary polygyny have focused primarily on the advantages of multiple queens during colony founding and early growth, but the impact of their presence extends to colony maturity and reproduction.

In this dissertation, I evaluate the ecological drivers and fitness consequences of non-kin queen cooperation, by comparing the reproduction of mature single-queen versus polygynous harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex californicus) colonies in the field. I captured and quantified the total number and biomass of reproductives across multiple mating seasons, comparing between populations that vary in the proportion of single queen versus polygynous colonies, to assess the fitness outcomes of queen cooperation. Colonies in a mainly polygynous site had lower reproductive investment than those in sites with predominantly single-queen colonies. The site dominated by polygyny had higher colony density and displayed evidence of resource limitation, pressures that may drive the evolution of queen cooperation.

I also used microsatellite markers to examine how polygynous queens share worker and reproductive production with nest-mate queens. The majority of queens fairly contribute to worker production and equally share reproductive output. However, there is a low frequency of queens that under-produce workers and over-produce reproductive offspring. This suggests that cheating by reproducing queens is possible, but uncommon. Competitive pressure from neighboring colonies could reduce the success of colonies that contain cheaters and maintain a low frequency of this phenotype in the population.

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2017

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Mating Biology, Social Structure, and the Evolution of Reproductive Conflict in Ants

Description

In many social groups, reproduction is shared between group members, whocompete for position in the social hierarchy for reproductive dominance. This
reproductive conflict can lead to different means of enforcing reproductive differences,
such as dominance displays or limited control of

In many social groups, reproduction is shared between group members, whocompete for position in the social hierarchy for reproductive dominance. This
reproductive conflict can lead to different means of enforcing reproductive differences,
such as dominance displays or limited control of social hierarchy through antagonistic
encounters. In eusocial insects, archetypal colonies contain a single, singly-mated fertile
queen, such that no reproductive conflict exists within a colony. However, many eusocial
insects deviate from this archetype and have multiply-mated queens (polyandry), multiple
queens in a single colony (polygyny), or both. In these cases, reproductive conflict exists
between the matrilines and patrilines represented in a colony, specifically over the
production of sexual offspring. A possible outcome of reproductive conflict may be the
emergence of cheating lineages, which favor the production of sexual offspring, taking
advantage of the worker force produced by nestmate queens and/or patrilines. In extreme
examples, inquiline social parasites may be an evolutionary consequence of reproductive
conflict between nestmate queens. Inquiline social parasitism is a type of social
parasitism that is usually defined by a partial or total loss of the worker caste, and the
“infiltration” of host colonies to take advantage of the host worker force for reproduction.
It has been hypothesized that these inquiline social parasites evolve through the
speciation of cheating queen lineages from within their incipient host species. This “intra-
specific” origin model involves a foundational hypothesis that the common ancestor of
host and parasite (and thus, putatively, the host at the time of speciation) should be
functionally polygynous, and that parasitism evolves as a “resolution” of reproductive
conflict in colonies. In this dissertation, I investigate the hypothesized role of polygyny in the evolution of inquiline social parasites. I use molecular ecology and statistical
approaches to validate the role of polygyny in the evolution of some inquiline social
parasites. I further discuss potential mechanisms for the evolution and speciation of social
parasites, and discuss future directions to elucidate these mechanisms.

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Date Created
2021

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A novel approach to study task organization in animal groups

Description

A key factor in the success of social animals is their organization of work. Mathematical models have been instrumental in unraveling how simple, individual-based rules can generate collective patterns via self-organization. However, existing models offer limited insights into how these

A key factor in the success of social animals is their organization of work. Mathematical models have been instrumental in unraveling how simple, individual-based rules can generate collective patterns via self-organization. However, existing models offer limited insights into how these patterns are shaped by behavioral differences within groups, in part because they focus on analyzing specific rules rather than general mechanisms that can explain behavior at the individual-level. My work argues for a more principled approach that focuses on the question of how individuals make decisions in costly environments.

In Chapters 2 and 3, I demonstrate how this approach provides novel insights into factors that shape the flexibility and robustness of task organization in harvester ant colonies (Pogonomyrmex barbatus). My results show that the degree to which colonies can respond to work in fluctuating environments depends on how individuals weigh the costs of activity and update their behavior in response to social information. In Chapter 4, I introduce a mathematical framework to study the emergence of collective organization in heterogenous groups. My approach, which is based on the theory of multi-agent systems, focuses on myopic agents whose behavior emerges out of an independent valuation of alternative choices in a given work environment. The product of this dynamic is an equilibrium organization in which agents perform different tasks (or abstain from work) with an analytically defined set of threshold probabilities. The framework is minimally developed, but can be extended to include other factors known to affect task decisions including individual experience and social facilitation. This research contributes a novel approach to developing (and analyzing) models of task organization that can be applied in a broader range of contexts where animals cooperate.

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2016

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Collective personality in the Azteca-Cecropia mutualism

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For interspecific mutualisms, the behavior of one partner can influence the fitness of the other, especially in the case of symbiotic mutualisms where partners live in close physical association for much of their lives. Behavioral effects on fitness may be

For interspecific mutualisms, the behavior of one partner can influence the fitness of the other, especially in the case of symbiotic mutualisms where partners live in close physical association for much of their lives. Behavioral effects on fitness may be particularly important if either species in these long-term relationships displays personality. Animal personality is defined as repeatable individual differences in behavior, and how correlations among these consistent traits are structured is termed behavioral syndromes. Animal personality has been broadly documented across the animal kingdom but is poorly understood in the context of mutualisms. My dissertation focuses on the structure, causes, and consequences of collective personality in Azteca constructor colonies that live in Cecropia trees, one of the most successful and prominent mutualisms of the neotropics. These pioneer plants provide hollow internodes for nesting and nutrient-rich food bodies; in return, the ants provide protection from herbivores and encroaching vines. I first explored the structure of the behavioral syndrome by testing the consistency and correlation of colony-level behavioral traits under natural conditions in the field. Traits were both consistent within colonies and correlated among colonies revealing a behavioral syndrome along a docile-aggressive axis. Host plants of more active, aggressive colonies had less leaf damage, suggesting a link between a colony personality and host plant health. I then studied how aspects of colony sociometry are intertwined with their host plants by assessing the relationship among plant growth, colony growth, colony structure, ant morphology, and colony personality. Colony personality was independent of host plant measures like tree size, age, volume. Finally, I tested how colony personality influenced by soil nutrients by assessing personality in the field and transferring colonies to plants the greenhouse under different soil nutrient treatments. Personality was correlated with soil nutrients in the field but was not influenced by soil nutrient treatment in the greenhouse. This suggests that soil nutrients interact with other factors in the environment to structure personality. This dissertation demonstrates that colony personality is an ecologically relevant phenomenon and an important consideration for mutualism dynamics.

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Date Created
2018

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Energy Use Scaling and Alarm Spread in Social Ants: An Investigation Using Multi-agent Simulation and Object Tracking

Description

Social insect groups, such as bees, termites, and ants, epitomize the emergence of group-level behaviors from the aggregated actions and interactions of individuals. Ants have the unique advantage that whole colonies can be observed in artificial, laboratory nests, and each

Social insect groups, such as bees, termites, and ants, epitomize the emergence of group-level behaviors from the aggregated actions and interactions of individuals. Ants have the unique advantage that whole colonies can be observed in artificial, laboratory nests, and each individual's behavior can be continuously tracked using imaging software. In this dissertation, I study two group behaviors: (1) the spread of alarm signals from three agitated ants to a group of 61 quiescent nestmates, and (2) the reduction in per-capita energy use as colonies scale in size from tens of ants to thousands. For my first experiment, I track the motion of Pogonomyrmex californicus ants using an overhead camera, and I analyze how propagation of an initial alarm stimulus affects their walking speeds. I then build an agent-based model that simulates two-dimensional ant motion and the spread of the alarmed state. I find that implementing a simple set of rules for motion and alarm signal transmission reproduces the empirically observed speed dynamics. For the second experiment, I simulate social insect colony workers that collectively complete a set of tasks. By assuming that task switching is energetically costly, my model recovers a metabolic rate scaling pattern, known as hypometric metabolic scaling. This relationship, which predicts an organism's metabolic rate from its mass, is observed across a diverse set of social insect groups and animal species. The results suggest an explicit link between the degree of workers' task specialization and whole-colony energy use.

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2021