Signaling hunger through aggression—the regulation of foraging in a primitively eusocial wasp
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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.
KeywordsForaging Dominance behavior Signaling hunger Primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata Regulation of foraging
We thank the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, for financial assistance. All experiments reported in this paper comply with the current laws in India. S.L. and K.C. performed the experiments under the supervision of R.G. S.L. and R.G. co-wrote the paper. We thank Sujata Deshpande and Anindita Bhadra for many helpful discussions during the design of the study.
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