Research highlight

Building an insect colony

Nature Communications

July 20, 2011

Eusociality in insects — where an individual works for the benefit of the entire colony — evolved through a combination of monogamous mating by the queen and the birth of sterile worker individuals concludes a study in Nature Communications this week. This work helps explain the longstanding question of the role of ecological factors and genetics in the evolution of eusociality seen in many insects.

Lutz Fromhage and Hanna Kokko built a mathematical model to simulate the birth, growth and death of an insect colony, as is seen in ants and bees. They show that monogamy and the birth of sterile workers — a process known as haplodiploidy — facilitate the evolution of eusociality in a novel, mutually reinforcing way.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1410

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