Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 37-45

The evolution of eusociality in molerats (Bathyergidae): a question of risks, numbers, and costs

  • B. G. LovegroveAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Philipps University

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This paper addresses risk and energetic considerations fundamentaly causative in the evolution of eusociality in the bathyergid molerats. Three simple mathematical models are presented which predict the probability of successful outbreeding in terms of dispersal risks and the energetic costs of foraging. The predictions of the models are compared with data from the literature, which mostly provide excellent empirical and theoretical support.

Inter-habitat dispersal risks are influenced most importantly by group size and resource characteristics, but also by body size, metabolic rate, thermoregulation, soil conditions, and caste structure. Intea-habitat foraging risks are temporaly dependent on rainfall — a factor critical for appropriate dispersal timing. High dispersal and foraging risks necessitate large group sizes and preclude a solitary existence. Outbreeding or inbreeding options are strongly influenced by dispersal risks, with high genetic relatedness in high risk habitats the likely consequence. Offspring should attain inclusive fitness values equal, if not more, than those possible by outbreeding by staying and helping with the colony reproductive effort.