Worker connectivity: a review of the design of worker communication systems and their effects on task performance in insect societies
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- O’Donnell, S. & Bulova, S.J. Insect. Soc. (2007) 54: 203. doi:10.1007/s00040-007-0945-6
Within-group communication is a fundamental feature of animal societies. In order for animal groups to function as adaptive units, the members must share information such that group mates respond appropriately to each others’ behavior. One important function of social communication is to affect the allocation of tasks among group members. Theoretical and empirical findings on a diverse array of social insect taxa show that interactions among workers often play important roles in structuring division of labor. We review worker interactions that regulate division of labor in insect societies, which we refer to as worker connectivity. We present a framework for synthesizing and analyzing the study of worker connectivity. The widespread reliance on worker connectivity among eusocial insect taxa and the diversity of communicative mechanisms used to recruit workers suggest that the nature of worker interactions has evolved by natural selection. We suggest that colony-level selection acting on variation in task allocation has been an important force in the evolution of mechanisms for worker connectivity. We also propose that there are important links between individual worker cognition and task allocation at the colony level. Evolutionary changes in the cognitive aspects of worker responses may affect task allocation as much as changes in the communicative signals themselves.