Absence of within-colony kin discrimination behavioural interactions of swarm-founding wasps


Within-colony kin discrimination has not been demonstrated conclusively for any social insect, perhaps partly because highly polymorphic genetic markers necessary to assess within-colony relatednesses have only recently become available. We use microsatellite loci to investigate within-colony kin discrimination in behavioural interactions in the neotropical multiple-queen wasp, Parachartergus colobopterus. Within-colony kin discrimination would be particularly advantageous in this species since average genetic relatedness among colony members overall is low (0.32 =/- 0.06), compared to the relatedness value between full sisters of 0.75. Using seven colonies of individually marked females, we recorded behavioural interactions that were cooperative (222 grooming, 2438 feeding), aggressive (511 body or wing biting, 240 mandible biting) or neutral (1676 antennating). We expected cooperative behaviours to favour closer kin and aggressive behaviours to be directed towards more distant kin, but found that none of the behaviours we investigated showed discrimination on the basis of relatedness. We could have detected a difference in relatedness values of as little as between 0.03 and 0.12, depending on the behaviour being analysed. Thus, we found no evidence for kin discrimination in within-colony behaviour in this species.

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Available from: Elisabeth Arevalo,
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    • "In honeybees, no clear evidence for nepotism was detected (reviewed by Breed et al. 1994; Tarpy et al. 2004). Several studies in wasps found no support for within colony kin discrimination (Queller et al. 1990; Strassmann et al. 1997; Solis et al. 1998). In the fire ant Solenopsis invicta 2050 B. Holzer and others Sham nepotism in ants workers did not favour their mother during fights between co-foundress queens (Balas & Adams 1996; Bernasconi & Keller 1996), nor did they tend or feed preferentially the more related queen in multiple-queen colonies (DeHeer & Ross 1997). "
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    ABSTRACT: In animal societies, cooperation for the common wealth and latent conflicts due to the selfish interests of individuals are in delicate balance. In many ant species, colonies contain multiple breeders and workers interact with nestmates of varying degrees of relatedness. Therefore, workers could increase their inclusive fitness by preferentially caring for their closest relatives, yet evidence for nepotism in insect societies remains scarce and controversial. We experimentally demonstrate that workers of the ant Formica exsecta do not discriminate between highly related and unrelated brood, but that brood viability differs between queens. We further show that differences in brood viability are sufficient to explain a relatedness pattern that has previously been interpreted as evidence for nepotism. Hence, our findings support the view that nepotism remains elusive in social insects and emphasize the need for further controlled experiments.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 09/2006; 273(1597):2049-52. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2006.3553 · 5.05 Impact Factor
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    • ".0001 and Field 2001), and foundresses apparently do not discriminate between degrees of relatedness among nestmates (Queller et al. 1990; Keller 1997; Strassmann et al. 1997). "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent theory suggests that much of the wide variation in individual behavior that exists within cooperative animal societies can be explained by variation in the future direct component of fitness, or the probability of inheritance. Here we develop two models to explore the effect of variation in future fitness on social aggression. The models predict that rates of aggression will be highest toward the front of the queue to inherit and will be higher in larger, more productive groups. A third prediction is that, in seasonal animals, aggression will increase as the time available to inherit the breeding position runs out. We tested these predictions using a model social species, the paper wasp Polistes dominulus. We found that rates of both aggressive "displays" (aimed at individuals of lower rank) and aggressive "tests" (aimed at individuals of higher rank) decreased down the hierarchy, as predicted by our models. The only other significant factor affecting aggression rates was date, with more aggression observed later in the season, also as predicted. Variation in future fitness due to inheritance rank is the hidden factor accounting for much of the variation in aggressiveness among apparently equivalent individuals in this species.
    The American Naturalist 05/2006; 167(6):837-52. DOI:10.1086/503445 · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    • "competition can affect biting interactions (Platt et al. 2004). Parachartergus workers do not show evidence of genetic nepotism when biting nestmates (Strassmann et al. 1997). A similar set of questions relates to the biters. "
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    ABSTRACT: Communicative interactions between colony members, or worker connectivity, can affect division of labour in insect societies. Nestmate workers of the eusocial paper wasp Polybia occidentalis engage in biting interactions, and correlational evidence suggests that biting promotes foraging by the workers that are bitten. I used experimental forager removals to test whether biting is a form of worker connectivity, inducing new recruits to enter the foraging force. I observed colonies with marked workers during a pretreatment (control) period, then removed all arriving foragers on the following day. Foraging ceased after several hours of forager removals, and remained depressed on the following morning. I grouped the remaining workers into four behavioural categories: nonforagers, individuals that stopped foraging after the manipulation, continuing foragers that were active before and after the manipulation and recruited foragers that began foraging after the manipulation. After the manipulation, the recruited foragers were bitten at similar rates to the continuing foragers and, most importantly, were the only ones that were bitten at significantly increased rates after the manipulation. Most recruits were observed being bitten before they began foraging. However, some recruits were not observed being bitten, and worker responses to biting were often gradual. These patterns suggest that the effect of biting is to modulate the probability of foraging in bitten workers. The experiments show that biting helps to induce foraging. Biting is a form of worker connectivity, serving as a mechanism of communication between Polybia workers that affects colony responses to changing conditions.
    Animal Behaviour 03/2006; 71(3-71):709-715. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2005.07.013 · 3.14 Impact Factor
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