Matching Items (4)

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Metabolic and behavioral integration in social insect colonies

Description

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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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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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

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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Created

Date Created
  • 2017

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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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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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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2011