Understanding Colonial Traits Using Symbiosis Research and Ecosystem Ecology
- 50 Downloads
E. O. Wilson (1974: 54) describes the problem that social organisms pose: “On what bases do we distinguish the extremely modified members of an invertebrate colony from the organs of a metazoan animal?” This framing of the issue has inspired many to look more closely at how groups of organisms form and behave as emergent individuals. The possible existence of “superorganisms” test our best intuitions about what can count and act as genuine biological individuals and how we should study them. As we will discuss, colonies of certain organisms display many of the properties that we usually reserve only to individual organisms. Although there is good reason to believe that many social insects form genuine emergent biological individuals, the conclusion offered here is of a slightly different sort. I will argue that to understand some social insects’ interactions and the emergent traits they give rise to, it may be helpful to shift our understanding from a community-level approach to an ecosystem-level approach. I will argue that viewing certain insect colonies (termites) as parts of ecosystems allows us to better understand some of the adaptations that have emerged from their evolution.
Keywordsadaptation biological individuality colony ecology emergence social insects
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Ahmadjian V, Jacobs J (1983) Algal-fungal relationships in lichens: Recognition, synthesis, and development. In: Symbiosis (Goff LJ, ed), 147–172. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Bouchard F (2004) Evolution, Fitness and the Struggle for Persistence. PhD thesis, Duke University, Durham, NC.Google Scholar
- Bouchard F (in press) How ecosystem evolution strengthens the case for functional pluralism. In: Functions: Selection and Mechanism (Huneman P, ed), Springer.Google Scholar
- Brandon RN (1990) Adaptation and Environment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Hamilton A, Smith N, Haber M (2009) Social insects and the individuality thesis: Cohesion and the colony as a selectable individual. In: Organization of Insect Societies: From Genome to Sociocomplexity (Gadau J, Fewell J, ed), 572–589. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (2008) The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- McShea DW, Venit E (2000) What is a part? In: The Character Concept in Evolutionary Biology (Wagner GP, ed), 259–284. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Paracer S, Ahmadjian V (2000) Symbiosis: An Introduction to Biological Associations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rosenberg A, Bouchard F (2009) Fitness. In: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition), (Zalta EN, ed), URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2009/entries/fitness.
- Sapp J (1994) Evolution by Association: A History of Symbiosis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Sober E (2001) The two faces of fitness. In: Thinking About Evolution: Historical, Philosophical, and Political Perspectives (Singh RS, Costas B, Paul DB, Beatty J, eds), 309–321. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Thoday JM (1953) Components of fitness. Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology 7: 96–113.Google Scholar
- Turner JS (2000) The Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal-built Structures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Wilson EO (1971) The Insect Societies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Wilson J (2007) Biological Individuality: The Identity and Persistence of Living Entities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Wilson RA (2007) The biological notion of individual. In: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), (Zalta EN, ed), URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/biology-individual.