Aug 19, 2008

Sex ratio conflict and worker production in eusocial hymenoptera

The American Naturalist
Max Reuter, Laurent Keller


The best known of the conflicts occurring in eusocial Hymenoptera is queen-worker conflict over sex ratio. So far, sex ratio theory has mostly focused on optimal investment in the production of male versus female sexuals, neglecting the investment in workers. Increased investment in workers decreases immediate sexual productivity but increases expected future colony productivity. Thus, an important issue is to determine the queen's and workers' optimal investment in each of the three castes (workers, female sexuals, and male sexuals), taking into account a possible trade-off between production of female sexuals and workers (both castes developing from diploid female eggs). Here, we construct a simple and general kin selection model that allows us to calculate the evolutionarily stable investments in the three castes, while varying the identity of the party controlling resource allocation (relative investment in workers, female sexuals, and male sexuals). Our model shows that queens and workers favor the investment in workers that maximizes lifetime colony productivity of sexual males and females, whatever the colony kin structure. However, worker production is predicted to be at this optimum only if one of the two parties has c...Continue Reading

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