Structure and resilience of the social network in an insect colony as a function of colony size

Abstract

Social interactions are critical to the organization of worker activities in insect colonies and their consequent ecological success. The structure of this interaction network is therefore crucial to our understanding of colony organization and functioning. In this paper, I study the properties of the interaction network in the colonies of the social wasp Ropalidia marginata. I find that the network is characterized by a uniform connectivity among individuals with increasing heterogeneity as colonies become larger. Important network parameters are found to be correlated with colony size and I investigate how this is reflected in the organization of work in colonies of different sizes. Finally, I test the resilience of these interaction networks by experimental removal of individuals from the colony and discuss the structural properties of the network that are related to resilience in a social network.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Jens Krause for inviting me to be a part of this special issue on social networks and Dick James and David Lusseau for their most insightful comments that forced me to think and work hard for the final version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Dhruba Naug.

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This contribution is part of the special issue “Social Networks: new perspectives” (Guest Editors: J. Krause, D. Lusseau, and R. James).

Communicated by J. Krause

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Naug, D. Structure and resilience of the social network in an insect colony as a function of colony size. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 63, 1023–1028 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-009-0721-x

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Keywords

  • Social networks
  • Social interactions
  • Colony size
  • Social insects
  • Ropalidia marginata