Cooperation and conflict in an insect society



Cooperation and conflict are inevitable consequences whenever a group of individuals get together, be they groups of self-replicating molecules or groups of warring nations. This paper gives an overview of my research using the tropical primitively eusocial paper was p Ropalidia marginata aimed at understanding the factors that modulate cooperation and conflict in an insect society. Hamilton's rule provides an excellent theoretical framework not only for investigating the role of genetic relatedness in modulating the levels of cooperation and conflict, as has been done so extensively in the last 30 years, but also for focussing on other factors, when genetic relatedness may be relatively unimponant. Polyandry or multiple mating by queens of R.originalQ and serial polygyny or the frequent change in queens, breakdown the genetic asymmetries created by haplodiploidy and make it genetically less advantageous to be a worker, than theoretically expected. Intra-colonykin recognition abilities appear not to be so well developed as to facilitate nepotism in the face of intra-colonygenetic variability. Anificial colonies with highly elevated levels of genetic variability appear to being distinguishable from natural colonies. We have therefore investigated the possibility that social behaviour ininsect societies is at least in pan mutualistic. The response of wasps to alien conspecifics in the context of their nestsand outside, suggest that factors other than genetic relatedness such as inter-individual assessments, facilitated by impressive cognitive abilities, may playa significant role in modulating the levels of cooperation and conflict.


Cooperation; conflict; insect society; kin recognition.

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