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An individual based model examining the emergence of cooperative recognition in a social insect

Source: OAI

ABSTRACT We use an agent-based model to simulate the expression of recognition behavior in the form of aggression among individual workers within colonies of subterranean termites. Inter- and intraspecific recognition in the form of overt aggression varies in the genus Reticulitermes. Three patterns have emerged from nestmate recognition studies in termites: 1) interspecific aggression is often stronger and more immediate than intraspecific aggression, 2) a loss of genetic diversity may result in a loss of aggression, 3) with laboratory bioassays, single individuals don't show overt aggression, whereas groups do. We create an agent-based model that simulates these patterns to understand the mechanisms that create them. We assume that there are three components to successful recognition of alien individuals: the variation in recognition cues among different colonies, signaling among individuals in the same colony, and variation in response thresholds of individuals within the same colony. The results suggest that if cue difference is not significantly variable, and response thresholds are high, aggressive behavior will not be expressed. Under these situations, social signaling becomes increasingly important. The model provides a simple mechanistic description of how aggressive behavior emerges from simple worker-to-worker interactions, and explains a possible reason for a group effect in laboratory bioassays.

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Jun 3, 2014

Kirsten A. Copren