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Helping effort in primitively eusocial wasps

By Jeremy Field and Michael Cant

Abstract

In primitively eusocial and cooperatively breeding societies, there is substantial individual variation in helping effort that is not accounted for by variation in genetic relatedness. In primitively eusocial wasps, helpers have a significant chance of inheriting breeding positions. Recent models suggest that because helpers with greater expected future fitness have more to lose, they should invest less in rearing the dominant's offspring. Observations and experiments on the paper wasp Polistes dominulus and the hover wasp Liostenogaster flavolineata support this prediction: helpers nearer to the front of the queue to inherit dominance, and helpers that stand to inherit larger, more productive groups, work less hard. These findings support the view that variation in social traits is best understood from a life-history perspective. Group augmentation effects, where greater helping effort leads to direct benefits through increased group size, seem less important in wasps. Further studies are required to understand how conflicts over helping effort are resolved in social wasps

Publisher: Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:sro.sussex.ac.uk:19691
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