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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 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.
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.