Matching Items (7)

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Analyzing Ant Emigrations to Understand Division of Labor

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In large part, the great success of eusocial insects is due to efficient division of labor (Duarte et al. 2011; Dornhaus 2008). Within ant colonies, the process of dividing labor

In large part, the great success of eusocial insects is due to efficient division of labor (Duarte et al. 2011; Dornhaus 2008). Within ant colonies, the process of dividing labor is not clearly defined, but it may be key to understanding the productivity and success of these colonies. This study analyzed data from an experiment that was conducted with the goal of examining how finely division of labor is organized in ant colonies. The experiment considered the actions of all ants from three Temnothorax rugatulus colonies. The colonies were each carefully recorded during five distinct emigrations per colony. The experiment produced such a large quantity of data that it was challenging to analyze the results, a major obstacle for many studies of collective behavior. Therefore, I designed a computer program that successfully sorted all of the data and prepared it for an initial statistical analysis that was performed in R. The preliminary results suggest that while most of the ants perform little to no work, there is an overall pattern of elitism; it seems that division of labor in ants is not more finely divided than previously shown. Future studies should provide further analysis of the data and will be useful in forming a more complete understanding of the division of labor within the emigrations of Temnothorax rugatulus colonies.

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  • 2012-12

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Regulation of reproductive plasticity in the ant Harpegnathos saltator

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At the heart of every eusocial insect colony is a reproductive division of labor. This division can emerge through dominance interactions at the adult stage or through the production of

At the heart of every eusocial insect colony is a reproductive division of labor. This division can emerge through dominance interactions at the adult stage or through the production of distinct queen and worker castes at the larval stage. In both cases, this division depends on plasticity within an individual to develop reproductive characteristics or serve as a worker. In order to gain insight into the evolution of reproductive plasticity in the social insects, I investigated caste determination and dominance in the ant Harpegnathos saltator, a species that retains a number of ancestral characteristics. Treatment of worker larvae with a juvenile hormone (JH) analog induced late-instar larvae to develop as queens. At the colony level, workers must have a mechanism to regulate larval development to prevent queens from developing out of season. I identified a new behavior in H. saltator where workers bite larvae to inhibit queen determination. Workers could identify larval caste based on a chemical signal specific to queen-destined larvae, and the production of this signal was directly linked to increased JH levels. This association provides a connection between the physiological factors that induce queen development and the production of a caste-specific larval signal. In addition to caste determination at the larval stage, adult workers of H. saltator compete to establish a reproductive hierarchy. Unlike other social insects, dominance in H. saltator was not related to differences in JH or ecdysteroid levels. Instead, changes in brain levels of biogenic amines, particularly dopamine, were correlated with dominance and reproductive status. Receptor genes for dopamine were expressed in both the brain and ovaries of H. saltator, and this suggests that dopamine may coordinate changes in behavior at the neurological level with ovarian status. Together, these studies build on our understanding of reproductive plasticity in social insects and provide insight into the evolution of a reproductive division of labor.

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  • 2012

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A novel approach to study task organization in animal groups

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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

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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Understanding the emerging behaviors and demands for the colony success of social insects: a mathematical approach

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The most advanced social insects, the eusocial insects, form often large societies in which there is reproductive division of labor, queens and workers, have overlapping generations, and cooperative brood care

The most advanced social insects, the eusocial insects, form often large societies in which there is reproductive division of labor, queens and workers, have overlapping generations, and cooperative brood care where daughter workers remain in the nest with their queen mother and care for their siblings. The eusocial insects are composed of representative species of bees and wasps, and all species of ants and termites. Much is known about their organizational structure, but remains to be discovered.

The success of social insects is dependent upon cooperative behavior and adaptive strategies shaped by natural selection that respond to internal or external conditions. The objective of my research was to investigate specific mechanisms that have helped shaped the structure of division of labor observed in social insect colonies, including age polyethism and nutrition, and phenomena known to increase colony survival such as egg cannibalism. I developed various Ordinary Differential Equation (ODE) models in which I applied dynamical, bifurcation, and sensitivity analysis to carefully study and visualize biological outcomes in social organisms to answer questions regarding the conditions under which a colony can survive. First, I investigated how the population and evolutionary dynamics of egg cannibalism and division of labor can promote colony survival. I then introduced a model of social conflict behavior to study the inclusion of different response functions that explore the benefits of cannibalistic behavior and how it contributes to age polyethism, the change in behavior of workers as they age, and its biological relevance. Finally, I introduced a model to investigate the importance of pollen nutritional status in a honeybee colony, how it affects population growth and influences division of labor within the worker caste. My results first reveal that both cannibalism and division of labor are adaptive strategies that increase the size of the worker population, and therefore, the persistence of the colony. I show the importance of food collection, consumption, and processing rates to promote good colony nutrition leading to the coexistence of brood and adult workers. Lastly, I show how taking into account seasonality for pollen collection improves the prediction of long term consequences.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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The physiology of division of labor in the ant, Pogonomyrmex californicus

Description

A notable feature of advanced eusocial insect groups is a division of labor within the sterile worker caste. However, the physiological aspects underlying the differentiation of behavioral phenotypes are poorly

A notable feature of advanced eusocial insect groups is a division of labor within the sterile worker caste. However, the physiological aspects underlying the differentiation of behavioral phenotypes are poorly understood in one of the most successful social taxa, the ants. By starting to understand the foundations on which social behaviors are built, it also becomes possible to better evaluate hypothetical explanations regarding the mechanisms behind the evolution of insect eusociality, such as the argument that the reproductive regulatory infrastructure of solitary ancestors was co-opted and modified to produce distinct castes. This dissertation provides new information regarding the internal factors that could underlie the division of labor observed in both founding queens and workers of Pogonomyrmex californicus ants, and shows that changes in task performance are correlated with differences in reproductive physiology in both castes. In queens and workers, foraging behavior is linked to elevated levels of the reproductively-associated juvenile hormone (JH), and, in workers, this behavioral change is accompanied by depressed levels of ecdysteroid hormones. In both castes, the transition to foraging is also associated with reduced ovarian activity. Further investigation shows that queens remain behaviorally plastic, even after worker emergence, but the association between JH and behavioral bias remains the same, suggesting that this hormone is an important component of behavioral development in these ants. In addition to these reproductive factors, treatment with an inhibitor of the nutrient-sensing pathway Target of Rapamycin (TOR) also causes queens to become biased towards foraging, suggesting an additional sensory component that could play an important role in division of labor. Overall, this work provides novel identification of the possible regulators behind ant division of labor, and suggests how reproductive physiology could play an important role in the evolution and regulation of non-reproductive social behaviors.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Ovarian regulation of honey bee (Apis mellifera) foraging division of labor

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There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform

There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform in-hive tasks (e.g. brood care), while older bees perform outside tasks (e.g. foraging for food). This age correlated division of labor is known as temporal polyethism. Foragers demonstrate further division of labor with some bees biasing collection towards protein (pollen) and others towards carbohydrates (nectar). The Reproductive Ground-plan Hypothesis proposes that the ovary plays a regulatory role in foraging division of labor. European honey bee workers that have been selectively bred to store larger amounts of pollen (High strain) also have a higher number of ovarioles per ovary than workers from strains bred to store less pollen (Low strain). High strain bees also initiate foraging earlier than Low strain bees. The relationship between ovariole number and foraging behavior is also observed in wild-type Apis mellifera and Apis cerana: pollen-biased foragers have more ovarioles than nectar-biased foragers. In my first study, I investigated the pre-foraging behavioral patterns of the High and Low strain bees. I found that High strain bees progress through the temporal polyethism at a faster rate than Low strain bees. To ensure that the observed relationship between the ovary and foraging bias is not due to associated separate genes for ovary size and foraging behavior, I investigated foraging behavior of African-European backcross bees. The backcross breeding program was designed to break potential gene associations. The results from this study demonstrated the relationship between the ovary and foraging behavior, supporting the proposed causal linkage between reproductive development and behavioral phenotype. The final study was designed to elucidate a regulatory mechanism that links ovariole number with sucrose sensitivity, and loading decisions. I measured ovariole number, sucrose sensitivity and sucrose solution load size using a rate-controlled sucrose delivery system. I found an interaction effect between ovariole number and sucrose sensitivity for sucrose solution load size. This suggests that the ovary impacts carbohydrate collection through modulation of sucrose sensitivity. Because nectar and pollen collection are not independent, this would also impact protein collection.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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Testing thresholds in the integrative theory of the division of domestic labor

Description

The division of domestic labor has far-reaching implications for "private" life (e.g. relational satisfaction and conflict) and for "public" paid labor (e.g. time and dedication in the workplace and career

The division of domestic labor has far-reaching implications for "private" life (e.g. relational satisfaction and conflict) and for "public" paid labor (e.g. time and dedication in the workplace and career advancement). Although several theories have been developed and tested, they do not sufficiently explain the consistent findings that women in mixed sex households perform a majority of the domestic labor. Without understanding the causes for differences in task performance, past research encouraging communicative solutions to ameliorate conflict was ineffective in changing task allocation and performance. Therefore, it is necessary to understand theoretical explanations that drive domestic labor behavior to develop effective solutions. The recent integrative theory of the division of domestic labor attempts to explain how individuals interact with household partners to allocate domestic tasks. Recognizing the complexity of the division of domestic labor, the integrative theory considers individual, dyadic, and societal factors that influence task allocation. Because clear differences in task performance have been found in mixed sex households, this study separates sex and gender as distinct variables by considering same-sex roommate relationships, essentially removing sex differences from the living arrangement. Furthermore, this study considers individual threshold levels as described by the integrative theory in order to test the theoretical underpinnings. Specifically, this study is designed to investigate the relationships between individual cleanliness threshold levels and gender, sex, perceptions of satisfaction, equity, and frequency of conflict in same-sex roommate relationships. Results indicate support of the integrative theory of the division of domestic labor. Regarding gender differences, partial support for the theory appeared in that feminine individuals have lower threshold levels than masculine individuals. Regarding sex differences, women possess lower individual threshold levels (i.e. more bothered when a task is undone) compared to men, which likely accounts for why existing research indicates that women spend more time performing domestic tasks. What is more, individuals with higher threshold levels report greater relational satisfaction. Further, individuals whose threshold levels differ from their living partner report lower relational satisfaction and greater conflict frequency. Finally, in terms of equity, both overbenefited and underbenefited individuals experience more conflict than those who feel their relationship is equitable. These results provide theoretical support for the integrative theory of the division of labor. Furthermore, the development and testing of a threshold measure scale can be used practically for future research and for better roommate pairings by universities. In addition, communication scholars, family practitioners and counselors, and universities can apply these theoretically grounded research findings to develop and test strategies to reduce conflict and increase relational satisfaction among roommates and couples.

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Date Created
  • 2011