Signaling hunger through aggression—the regulation of foraging in a primitively eusocial wasp
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- Lamba, S., Chandrasekhar, K. & Gadagkar, R. Naturwissenschaften (2008) 95: 677. doi:10.1007/s00114-008-0369-9
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Primitively eusocial wasps are generally headed by behaviorally dominant queens who use their aggression to suppress worker reproduction. In contrast, queens in the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata are strikingly docile and non-aggressive. However, workers exhibit dominance–subordinate interactions among themselves. These interactions do not appear to reflect reproductive competition because there is no correlation between the relative position of an individual in the dominance hierarchy of the colony and the likelihood that she will succeed a lost/removed queen. Based on the observation that foraging continues unaltered in the absence of the queen and the correlation between dominance behavior and foraging, we have previously suggested that dominance-subordinate interactions among workers in R. marginata have been co-opted to serve the function of decentralized, self-organized regulation of foraging. This idea has been supported by an earlier experimental study where it was found that a reduced demand for food led to a significant decrease in dominance behavior. In this study, we perform the converse experiment, demonstrate that dominance behavior increases under conditions of starvation, and thus provide further evidence in support of the hypothesis that intranidal workers signal hunger through aggression.