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Interrogating an insect society

Gadagkar, Raghavendra (2009) Interrogating an insect society. In: PNAS, 106 (26). pp. 10407-10414.

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Insect societies such as those of ants, bees, and wasps consist of 1 or a small number of fertile queens and a large number of sterile or nearly sterile workers. While the queens engage in laying eggs, workers perform all other tasks such as nest building, acquisition and processing of food, and brood care. How do such societies function in a coordinated and efficient manner? What are the rules that individuals follow? How are these rules made and enforced? These questions are of obvious interest to us as fellow social animals but how do we interrogate an insect society and seek answers to these questions? In this article I will describe my research that was designed to see answers from an insect society to a series of questions of obvious interest to us. I have chosen the Indian paper wasp Ropalidia marginata for this purpose, a species that is abundantly distributed in peninsular India and serves as an excellent model system. An important feature of this species is that queens and workers are morphologically identical and physiologically nearly so. How then does an individual become a queen? How does the queen suppress worker reproduction? How does the queen regulate the nonreproductive activities of the workers? What is the function of aggression shown by different individuals? How and when is the queen's heir decided? I will show how such questions can indeed be investigated and will emphasize the need for a whole range of different techniques of observation and experimentation.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to National Academy of Sciences.
Keywords: division of labor;Ropalidia marginata;social evolution; social organization;social wasp.
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: Id for Latest eprints
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2009 17:49
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 05:38
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/21634

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