Worker policing

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Worker policing is common in honey bee hives

Worker policing is a behavior seen in colonies of social hymenopterans (ants, bees, wasps) whereby worker females eat or remove eggs that have been laid by other workers rather than those laid by a queen. Worker policing ensures that the offspring of the queen will predominate in the group. In certain species of bees, ants and wasps, workers or the queen may also act aggressively towards fertile workers. Worker policing has been suggested as a form of coercion to promote the evolution of altruistic behavior in eusocial insect societies.[1]

Proposed mechanisms for the recognition of worker-laid eggs or active reproductive workers include marker hydrocarbons on the surface of queen-laid eggs, cuticle hydrocarbons on reproductive workers, and recognition of nest-mates.[2][3][4] In rare cases, worker-laid eggs carry mimicked queen hydrocarbons and escape policing, a condition known as the anarchic syndrome.[5]

Not all forms of policing require the presence of a queen; it also occurs in a few species of ants which establish a dominance hierarchy of reproductive female workers, where top-ranking individuals reproduce.[6]

Evolutionary basis[edit]

See also: Haplodiploidy
The haplodiploid sex determination system has consequences for worker policing behavior

In many social insect communities, sex is determined through haplodiploidy. Haploid male drones develop from unfertilized eggs while diploid females develop from fertilized eggs. Queens of a colony may mate with one or several drones. On average, a queen shares half of her genes with her sons, but only shares a quarter of her genes with the sons of fertile female workers. Therefore, it is in the queen's best interests to have her own sons raised, and not the sons of workers. Workers can reproduce in many ants, bees, and wasps because male offspring come from unfertilized eggs. By contrast, the worker shares half of her genes with her sons and only a quarter with her brothers. Furthermore, the workers in colonies with a single once-mated queens are related to their nephews by three eighths, higher than they are related to brothers. This results in a conflict where the queen and worker females are at odds over the proportion of male offspring they contribute, since each side tries to maximize its reproductive fitness.[7] Queens favor production of their own sons while workers favor production of their own sons, and do not stop their sisters from laying because of the favorable relatedness to nephews.

Worker policing occurs when worker bees in the colony are more genetically related to the queen than the reproductive female. In many instances, the eggs of the female worker are eaten, or she is repeatedly attacked by other workers. This mechanism of egg removal ensures that the queen's sons predominate.[8]

Experiments confirming the role of kin selection in worker policing demonstrate the effects of multiple matings, which can lead to lower average relatedness between workers. Queens of the social wasp Dolichovespula saxonica mate singly or multiply. Researchers who study these wasps have observed a strong positive correlation between worker relatedness and male production. After controlling for the absolute number of eggs laid, these scientists conclude that the queen's multiple matings favor mutual worker policing.[9]

Although early theories of worker policing focused on the kin selection component, evidence from honey bees suggests that altruism is sometimes enforced. Fewer workers reproduce as policing effectiveness rises, and policing effectiveness decreases with increasing relatedness except in colonies with no queen. This suggests that worker policing is a social sanction imposed on selfish individuals.[10]

Proposed mechanisms for kin recognition[edit]

Formica fusca ants can recognize nest-mates

Mechanisms suggested for egg discrimination in worker policing include queen hydrocarbons, fertile worker hydrocarbons, and nestmate recognition.

Queen hydrocarbons[edit]

A study on the carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus found a special surface hydrocarbon on queen-laid eggs. Workers in the colony with the queen's eggs refrained from egg-laying, whereas other groups that did not have queen-laid eggs showed worker reproduction. Thus, the hydrocarbon could act as a signal to alert workers to halt reproduction. More generally, however, the authors concluded that the hydrocarbons were a fertility signal. It is still unknown as to how the decision to restrain reproduction occurs or what minimum threshold of fertility in the queen is needed to reduce worker reproduction.[2]

Fertile worker hydrocarbons[edit]

The study of cuticle hydrocarbons has also been applied to the reproductive workers. In some colonies of the ponerine ant Platythyrea punctata, the presence of CHCs in new reproductive workers triggered aggressive behavior from the rest of the colony, often between new and old reproductive workers. Specifically, the old reproductive workers rubbed a marker hydrocarbon on the antennae of the new females, identifying them as rivals and targets for aggression.[3]

Nestmate recognition[edit]

In contrast to the other ant species, worker policing in the ant Formica fusca appears to incorporate nestmate recognition in addition to the queen hydrocarbons. Workers displayed higher levels of aggression toward non-nest mates and also removed some queen-laid eggs. Thus, queen hydrocarbons were not the only contributor to discrimination of the eggs.[4]

Examples from social Hymenoptera[edit]

Worker policing has evolved convergently in several social insect species. The following cases are examples:

Bees[edit]

Apis mellifera workers remove worker-laid eggs by eating them (oophagy)

One of the first examples of worker policing to be discovered was in the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Worker policing is prevalent in most honey bee colonies, and worker reproduction is minimal (0.12%) in this species.[11] Worker policing occurs via egg-eating (oophagy) in Apis mellifera colonies.[8] In many of these hives, the activation of ovaries in fertile females is diminished, suggesting that there are disincentives to laying eggs.[8]

Workers in colonies of the Asian honey bee, Apis florea, are also reported to engage in oophagy. Using microsatellite analysis, researchers concluded that no mature drones had non-queen alleles in the colonies they investigated. Thus, even though workers had activated ovaries and were capable of laying eggs, worker policing ensured the functional sterility of otherwise fertile workers.[12]

A higher percentage of female workers of the bee species Apis cerana are reported to activate their ovaries than those of Apis mellifera or Apis florea. When queens were removed, up to 40% of the workers activated their ovaries in subsequent days. However, policing workers continued to eat the worker-laid eggs, suggesting that the mechanism of policing in this species does not involve direct intervention from the queen.[13]

The observation that all these Apis species engage in polyandry has led researchers to conclude that worker policing is plesiomorphic for the Apis genus.[13]

Ants[edit]

Worker of Harpegnathos saltator killing a queen

In colonies of the ponerine ant, Pachycondyla inversa, workers eat the eggs of fertile female workers and display aggressive behavior towards egg-laying females.[14]

In colonies of the ant Gnamptogenys menadensis, workers will sometimes mate and lay eggs while others remain as virgins to lay trophic eggs that are consumed as nourishment. In a display of policing, workers can immobilize female reproductive workers by biting their limbs; it is reported that 50% of the victims die from this treatment. The attacking workers may also drag offending workers outside the colony. Since workers can lay both male and female eggs, worker policing could be favored since the cost to the community is large.[15]

The ant species Aphaenogaster smythiesi japonica also display evidence of policing. When researchers separated and then reunited workers from colonies that did or did not have queens, workers from the queen-containing colonies attacked the workers with activated ovaries from the queenless colonies.[16]

Wasps[edit]

Dolichovespula sylvestris workers can display aggression towards other fertile workers

The tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris also displays worker policing. Both egg-eating and aggression are reported in these wasp communities, and the queen also engages in the policing process.[17]

In colonies of the paper wasp, Polistes chinensis antennalis, workers can lay up to a quarter of the male eggs in the colony. The number of eggs that survived to hatching, however, was minimal compared to the number produced by the queen. Analysis of the microsatellite markers showed that both queens and workers contributed to policing of worker and queen-laid eggs even in monogynous and monandrous colonies.[18]

The common wasp, Vespula vulgaris, engages in worker policing, and it is known that a significant number of workers have active ovaries. However, studies by researchers have suggested that relatedness may not be the key factor in the development of worker policing. Rather, it is hypothesized that worker policing has been selected due to conflict suppression in the colony.[19]

In a test of worker policing, researchers examined the removal of worker-laid eggs in Vespula rufa, a wasp that has low paternity. Under the testing conditions, worker policing was not as efficient, and some of the drones appeared to be from worker-laid eggs.[20]

Exceptions[edit]

Anarchic syndrome[edit]

Very rarely, female worker bees lay eggs that escape worker policing, in a process known as the anarchic syndrome. Female reproductive workers in these colonies activate their ovaries even in the presence of a queen. The worker eggs are allowed as they mimic queen hydrocarbons. Thus, female workers can maximize their reproductive fitness at the expense of the colony. Anarchic syndrome is an example of selection working in opposite directions at individual and group levels.[5]

Selfish worker policing[edit]

Temnothorax unifasciatus, a myrmicinid ant, has been shown not to have collective worker policing. However, when a queen is removed, a rank order for reproduction appears, where top ranking reproductives display aggression towards lower-order female workers. Thus, reductions in egg laying are created by dominance hierarchies. Individuals do not act in benefit of the colony, instead opting to increase their own fitness by laying their eggs and reducing the contributions of opponents.[6]

Worker policing without genetic conflict[edit]

In the thelytokous ant Platythyrea punctata, colonies are clonal; therefore, workers are all equally related genetically, and worker policing is not expected as there is no genetic conflict. However, one would expect severe effects on the condition of the colony if reproductive workers were left unchecked. For example, more time spent on individual reproduction would be predicted to detract from care of the queen's offspring. In studies of these ants, workers did actually display worker policing, as evidenced by increased aggression towards reproductive workers. Worker policing here is favored for group efficiency.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ratnieks, Francis L. W.; Heikki Helanterä (October 2009). "The evolution of extreme altruism and inequality in insect societies". Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 364 (1553): 3169–3179. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0129. 
  2. ^ a b Endler, Annett; Jürgen Liebig; Bert Hölldobler (February 2006). "Queen fertility, egg marking and colony size in the ant Camponotus floridanus". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 59 (4): 490–499. doi:10.1007/s00265-005-0073-0. 
  3. ^ a b Hartmann, Anne; Patrizia D'Ettorre; Graeme R. Jones; Jürgen Heinze (June 2005). "Fertility signaling—the proximate mechanism of worker policing in a clonal ant". Naturwissenschaften 92 (6): 282–286. doi:10.1007/s00114-005-0625-1. 
  4. ^ a b Helanterä, Heikki; Liselotte Sundström (June 2007). "Worker policing and nest mate recognition in the ant Formica fusca". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61 (8): 1143–1149. doi:10.1007/s00265-006-0327-5. 
  5. ^ a b Oldroyd, Benjamin P.; Katherine E Osborne (July 1999). "The evolution of worker sterility in honeybees: the genetic basis of failure of worker policing". Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 266 (1426): 1335–1339. doi:10.1098/rspb.1999.0784. 
  6. ^ a b Stroeymeyt, Nathalie; Elisabeth Brunner & Jürgen Heinze (July 2007). ""Selfish worker policing" controls reproduction in a Temnothorax ant". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61 (9): 1449–1457. doi:10.1007/s00265-007-0377-3. 
  7. ^ Ratnieks, Francis L.W.; P. Kirk Visscher (December 1989). "Worker policing in the honeybee". Nature 342 (6251): 796–797. doi:10.1038/342796a0. 
  8. ^ a b c Wenseleers, Tom; Adam G. Hart; Francis L. W. Ratnieks (December 2004). "When Resistance Is Useless: Policing and the Evolution of Reproductive Acquiescence in Insect Societies". The American Naturalist (The University of Chicago Press for The American Society of Naturalists) 164 (6): E154–E167. doi:10.1086/425223. 
  9. ^ Foster, Kevin R.; Francis L.W. Ratnieks (October 2000). "Social insects: Facultative worker policing in a wasp". Nature 407 (6805): 692–693. doi:10.1038/35037665. 
  10. ^ Wenseleers, Tom; Francis L. W. Ratnieks (November 2006). "Enforced altruism in insect societies". Nature 444 (7115): 50. doi:10.1038/444050a. 
  11. ^ Visscher, P. Kirk (1989). "A quantitative study of worker reproduction in honey bee colonies". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 25 (4): 247–254. doi:10.1007/bf00300050. JSTOR 4600337. 
  12. ^ Halling, Luke A; Benjamin P. Oldroyd; Wandee Wattanachaiyingcharoen; Andrew B. Barron; Piyamas Nanork; Siriwat Wongsiri (2001). "Worker policing in the bee Apis florea". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Springer-Verlag) 49 (6): 509–513. doi:10.1007/s002650100325. 
  13. ^ a b Oldroyd, Benjamin P.; Luke A. Halling; Gregory Good; Wandee Wattanachaiyingcharoen; Andrew B. Barron; Piyamas Nanork; Siriwat Wongsiri; Francis L. Ratnieks (2001). "Worker policing and worker reproduction in Apis cerana". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Springer-Verlag) 50 (4): 371–377. doi:10.1007/s002650100376. 
  14. ^ D'Ettorre, Patrizia; Jürgen Heinze; Francis L W Ratnieks (July 2004). "Worker policing by egg eating in the ponerine ant Pachycondyla inversa". Proc Biol Sci. 271 (1546): 1427–1434. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2742. PMC 1691738. 
  15. ^ Gobin, Bruno; J. Billen and C. Peeters (November 1999). "Policing behaviour towards virgin egg layers in a polygynous ponerine ant". Anim. Behav. 58 (5): 1117–1122. doi:10.1006/anbe.1999.1245. PMID 10564615. 
  16. ^ Iwanishi, Satoru; Eisuke Hasegawab and Kyohsuke Ohkawaraa (September 2003). "Worker oviposition and policing behaviour in the myrmicine ant Aphaenogaster smythiesi japonica Forel". Animal Behavior 66 (3): 513–519. doi:10.1006/anbe.2003.2222. 
  17. ^ Wenseleers, Tom; A. Tofilski and F. L. W. Ratnieks (2005). "Queen and worker policing in the tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 58: 80–86. doi:10.1007/s00265-004-0892-4. 
  18. ^ Saigo, T.; K. Tsuchida (December 2004). Queen and worker policing in monogynous and monandrous colonies of a primitively eusocial wasp 271. pp. S509–S512. PMC 1810092. 
  19. ^ Foster, Kevin R.; Francis L. W. Ratnieks (January 2001). "Convergent evolution of worker policing by egg eating in the honeybee and common wasp". Proc Biol Sci 268 (1463): 169–74. doi:10.1098/rspb.2000.1346. 
  20. ^ Wenseleers, Tom; N. S. Badcock; K. Erven; A. Tofilski; F. S. Nascimento; A. G. Hart; T. A. Burke; M. E. Archer; F. L W. Ratnieks (June 2005). "A test of worker policing theory in an advanced eusocial wasp, Vespula rufa". Evolution 59 (6): 1306–14. doi:10.1554/04-532. 
  21. ^ Hartmann, Anne; J. Wantia; J. A. Torres; J. Heinze (October 2003). "Worker policing without genetic conflicts in a clonal ant". PNAS 100 (22): 12836–12840. doi:10.1073/pnas.2132993100. 

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