Matching Items (9)

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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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Metabolic and behavioral integration in social insect colonies

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In social insect colonies, as with individual animals, the rates of biological processes scale with body size. The remarkable explanatory power of metabolic allometry in ecology and evolutionary biology derives

In social insect colonies, as with individual animals, the rates of biological processes scale with body size. The remarkable explanatory power of metabolic allometry in ecology and evolutionary biology derives from the great diversity of life exhibiting a nonlinear scaling pattern in which metabolic rates are not proportional to mass, but rather exhibit a hypometric relationship with body size. While one theory suggests that the supply of energy is a major physiological constraint, an alternative theory is that the demand for energy is regulated by behavior. The central hypothesis of this dissertation research is that increases in colony size reduce the proportion of individuals actively engaged in colony labor with consequences for energetic scaling at the whole-colony level of biological organization. A combination of methods from comparative physiology and animal behavior were developed to investigate scaling relationships in laboratory-reared colonies of the seed-harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex californicus. To determine metabolic rates, flow-through respirometry made it possible to directly measure the carbon dioxide production and oxygen consumption of whole colonies. By recording video of colony behavior, for which ants were individually paint-marked for identification, it was possible to reconstruct the communication networks through which information is transmitted throughout the colony. Whole colonies of P. californicus were found to exhibit a robust hypometric allometry in which mass-specific metabolic rates decrease with increasing colony size. The distribution of walking speeds also scaled with colony size so that larger colonies were composed of relatively more inactive ants than smaller colonies. If colonies were broken into random collections of workers, metabolic rates scaled isometrically, but when entire colonies were reduced in size while retaining functionality (queens, juveniles, workers), they continued to exhibit a metabolic hypometry. The communication networks in P. californicus colonies contain a high frequency of feed-forward interaction patterns consistent with those of complex regulatory systems. Furthermore, the scaling of these communication pathways with size is a plausible mechanism for the regulation of whole-colony metabolic scaling. The continued development of a network theory approach to integrating behavior and metabolism will reveal insights into the evolution of collective animal behavior, ecological dynamics, and social cohesion.

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  • 2012

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

Description

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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The regulation of worker reproduction in the ant Aphaenogaster cockerelli

Description

The repression of reproductive competition and the enforcement of altruism are key components to the success of animal societies. Eusocial insects are defined by having a reproductive division of labor,

The repression of reproductive competition and the enforcement of altruism are key components to the success of animal societies. Eusocial insects are defined by having a reproductive division of labor, in which reproduction is relegated to one or few individuals while the rest of the group members maintain the colony and help raise offspring. However, workers have retained the ability to reproduce in most insect societies. In the social Hymenoptera, due to haplodiploidy, workers can lay unfertilized male destined eggs without mating. Potential conflict between workers and queens can arise over male production, and policing behaviors performed by nestmate workers and queens are a means of repressing worker reproduction. This work describes the means and results of the regulation of worker reproduction in the ant species Aphaenogaster cockerelli. Through manipulative laboratory studies on mature colonies, the lack of egg policing and the presence of physical policing by both workers and queens of this species are described. Through chemical analysis and artificial chemical treatments, the role of cuticular hydrocarbons as indicators of fertility status and the informational basis of policing in this species is demonstrated. An additional queen-specific chemical signal in the Dufour's gland is discovered to be used to direct nestmate aggression towards reproductive competitors. Finally, the level of actual worker-derived males in field colonies is measured. Together, these studies demonstrate the effectiveness of policing behaviors on the suppression of worker reproduction in a social insect species, and provide an example of how punishment and the threat of punishment is a powerful force in maintaining cooperative societies.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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Investigating wasp societies: a historical and epistemological study

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The study of wasp societies (family Vespidae) has played a central role in advancing our knowledge of why social life evolves and how it functions. This dissertation asks: How have

The study of wasp societies (family Vespidae) has played a central role in advancing our knowledge of why social life evolves and how it functions. This dissertation asks: How have scientists generated and evaluated new concepts and theories about social life and its evolution by investigating wasp societies? It addresses this question both from a narrative/historical and from a reflective/epistemological perspective. The historical narratives reconstruct the investigative pathways of the Italian entomologist Leo Pardi (1915-1990) and the British evolutionary biologist William D. Hamilton (1936-2000). The works of these two scientists represent respectively the beginning of our current understanding of immediate and evolutionary causes of social life. Chapter 1 shows how Pardi, in the 1940s, generated a conceptual framework to explain how wasp colonies function in terms of social and reproductive dominance. Chapter 2 shows how Hamilton, in the 1960s, attempted to evaluate his own theory of inclusive fitness by investigating social wasps. The epistemological reflections revolve around the idea of investigative framework for theory evaluation. Chapter 3 draws on the analysis of important studies on social wasps from the 1960s and 1970s and provides an account of theory evaluation in the form of an investigative framework. The framework shows how inferences from empirical data (bottom-up) and inferences from the theory (top-down) inform one another in the generation of hypotheses, predictions and statements about phenomena of social evolution. It provides an alternative to existing philosophical accounts of scientific inquiry and theory evaluation, which keep a strong, hierarchical distinction between inferences from the theory and inferences from the data. The historical narratives in this dissertation show that important scientists have advanced our knowledge of complex biological phenomena by constantly interweaving empirical, conceptual, and theoretical work. The epistemological reflections argue that we need holistic frameworks that account for how multiple scientific practices synergistically contribute to advance our knowledge of complex phenomena. Both narratives and reflections aim to inspire and inform future work in social evolution capitalizing on lessons learnt from the past.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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

Description

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

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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Date Created
  • 2011

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

Description

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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The emergence and scaling of division of labor in insect societies

Description

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

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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Date Created
  • 2011