May 12, 2016

Resource limitation reveals a twofold benefit of eusociality

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Emanuel A FronhoferHans J Poethke


Explaining the evolution and maintenance of cooperative breeding or eusociality remains a challenge. Surprisingly, fundamental ecological factors, specifically competition for limited resources and resource variance, are frequently ignored in models of animal sociality. We here develop a mathematical model that includes density-dependent population growth and quantify the influence of cooperative foraging on resource use efficiency. We derive optimal resource sharing strategies, ranging from egalitarian to cooperatively breeding and eusocial groups. We find that, while egalitarian resource sharing is a risk-reducing foraging strategy, eusociality yields additional benefits: like egalitarian strategies, eusocial groups can reduce their members' starvation risk by reducing resource variance. Additionally, eusocial groups increase their reproductive output by increasing intra-group variance in resources allocated to reproduction. This allows reproduction even when resources are so scarce that solitary animals would not be able to reproduce. In a majority of environmental situations and life-histories, this twofold benefit of eusociality increased resource use efficiency and led to supersaturation, that is, to a strong increase in ...Continue Reading

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Response to Starvation
Biological Evolution

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