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Pattern formation on the combs of honeybees: increasing fitness by coupling self-organization with templates

By Brian R. Johnson


Biological patterns are often constructed via a combination of mechanisms including self-organization, templates and recipes. Our understanding of self-organization is becoming increasingly clear, yet how multiple mechanisms work together and what selective advantage they confer over simpler mechanisms is poorly understood. Honeybee (Apis mellifera) combs exhibit a pattern of brood at the bottom, pollen in a band next to it and honey at the top. This study constructs an agent-based model, derived from experimental studies, to determine both how self-organization interacts with two templates and to elucidate a selective basis for the use of multiple mechanisms. The vertical pattern of honey and brood is shown to be dependent on a gravity-based template, while the pollen band is shown to form via the interaction of a queen-based template and self-organization. The study suggests that the selective basis for this complex mechanism may be that colonies have higher growth rates when multiple mechanisms are used as opposed to self-organization alone. As self-organization is used in many contexts in which the addition of supplemental mechanisms could be advantageous, this result may be of general significance to many biological systems

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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