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The effect of sex-allocation biasing on the evolution of worker policing in hymenopteran societies

By K R Foster and Francis Ratnieks


Mutual policing is thought to be important in conflict suppression at all levels of biological organization. In hymenopteran societies (bees, ants, and wasps), multiple mating by queens favors mutual policing of male production among workers (worker policing). However, worker policing of male production is proving to be more widespread than predicted by relatedness patterns, occurring in societies headed by single-mated queens in which, paradoxically, workers are more related to the workers' sons that they kill than the queen's sons that they spare. Here we develop an inclusive-fitness model to show that a second reproductive conflict, the conflict over sex allocation, can explain the evolution of worker policing contrary to relatedness predictions. Among ants, and probably other social Hymenoptera, workers kill males to favor their more related sisters. Importantly, males are killed at the larval stage, presumably because workers cannot determine the sex of queen-laid eggs. Sex-allocation biasing favors worker policing because policing removes some males (the workers' sons) at low cost at the egg stage rather than at higher cost at the larval stage. Our model reveals an important interaction between two reproductive conflicts in which the presence of one conflict (sex allocation) favors the suppression of the other (male production by workers)

Year: 2001
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