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Corpus Systématique Animale

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Reproductive efficiency in relation to colony size in hymenopterous societies

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  • Charles D. Michener
  • The University of Kansas, Kansas, USA

Censuses showing the numerical relations between adults and immature stages are presented for numerous colonies of social Hymenoptera. Emphasis is placed on primatively social forms having colonies of very few individuals and lacking a worker caste or having such a caste only feebly differentiated. Evidence is presented for considering the number of immature individuals in a colony as an index of the ability of the adult females (queens and workers) of the colony to produce reproductives of the next generation. The censuses therefore relate colony size (number of adult females) to reproductive potentiality. It is not surprising that in all species the number of immature individuals rises with the number of females in the colony. When the immature stages are measured in numbers of individuals, it can be seen that the number of young rises slowly in relation to increases in number of females (mostly workers),i. e., the curves are rather flat if the same units of measurement are used for both x and y axes. Therefore a relatively large increase in worker number is associated with any increase in production of reproductives of the next generation. (A possible exception occurs inPseudagapostemon which lacks a worker caste.) When numbers of immature stages in a series of colonies of a species are divided by the number of females (queens and workers) in each colony to determine the efficiency of those females in rearing young, it is found that the efficiency per adult female is usually greater the smaller the colony, and that in those primitively social forms which sometimes live as lone individuals, it is these isolated females that produce the most progeny per female. Behavioral social interactions causing deminishing efficiency with increasing colony size must be common. Since higher reproductivity per female is attained by lone individuals rather than by those in groups, selection among egg-layers in small primitive social groups and in early season groups, when worker action is absent or minimal, may be partly responsible for the fact most social insects have colonies with only one queen. Such differential selection may partially explain the fact that colonies of bees typically contain only a single queen in spite of the belief that at least some of them arose phylogenetically through aggregations instead of through subsocial family groups. Other reasons for the frequency of colonies with one rather than many queens are probably more important and include the ease of establishment of a colony by a lone queen, the simplicity of caste controlling mechanisms if the number of functional queens is limited to one as contrasted to the complications if some additional queens are allowed, and various reasons related to selection and intracolonial competition as suggested in the text.

Catégories Science-Metrix
  • 1 - natural sciences
  • 2 - biology
  • 3 - entomology
Catégories INIST
  • 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
  • 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
  • 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie
  • 4 - ethologie animale
Catégories Scopus
  • 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Insect Science
  • 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Catégories WoS
  • 1 - science ; 2 - entomology
Identifiant ISTEX

Insectes Sociaux

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  • Insectes
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