Meeting Abstract

S9-4  Sunday, Jan. 8 09:00 - 09:30  Social insect colonies as individuals and groups: development and evolution of individual differences DORNHAUS, Anna; University of Arizona

Complex systems, where group-level function is a result of the actions and interactions of components, are ubiquitous in biology and many other fields. Such systems exhibit variation both internally (between components) and at the group level. Internal variation is often thought to be the adaptive result of individual specialization, but units may also vary in quality, robustness, and other traits; variation at the group level is often thought to be a result of noise or constraint. In social insect colonies, we now know that individual variation can be adaptive for a set of reasons in addition to generating effective division of labor; groups may therefore benefit from not employing all-specialist workers, but instead maintaining a mixture of specialized and flexible, robust and fragile, and/or cheap and expensive workers. In addition however, developmental constraints may determine how much the traits of individual workers are accessible to group-level adaptation. Variation at the group level, instead of being largely noise, may reflect individual colony life history strategy and local adaptation. Evolved variation at the group level constitutes an independent evolutionary origin (compared to variation at the level of individuals), and finding it driven by local competition, via life history strategy, reinforces the hypothesis that competition is a major driving force in the evolution of animal personalities.