1. Ecology
  2. Evolutionary Biology
Download icon

The evolution of non-reproductive workers in insect colonies with haplodiploid genetics

  1. Jason W Olejarz
  2. Benjamin Allen
  3. Carl Veller
  4. Martin A Nowak  Is a corresponding author
  1. Harvard University, United States
  2. Emmanuel College, United States
Research Article
  • Cited 14
  • Views 2,811
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e08918 doi: 10.7554/eLife.08918

Abstract

Eusociality is a distinct form of biological organization. A key characteristic of advanced eusociality is the presence of non-reproductive workers. Why evolution should produce animals that sacrice their own reproductive potential in order to aid others is an important question in evolutionary biology. Here we provide a detailed analysis of the selective forces that determine the emergence and stability of non-reproductive workers. We study the effects, in situations where the queen of the colony has mated once or several times, of recessive and dominant sterility alleles acting in her offspring. Contrary to widespread belief based on heuristic arguments of genetic relatedness, non-reproductive workers can easily evolve in polyandrous species. The crucial quantity is the functional relationship between a colony's reproductive rate and the fraction of sterile workers present in that colony. We derive precise conditions for natural selection to favor the evolution of non-reproductive workers.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jason W Olejarz

    Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Benjamin Allen

    Department of Mathematics, Emmanuel College, Boston, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Carl Veller

    Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Martin A Nowak

    Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States
    For correspondence
    martin_nowak@harvard.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Michael Doebeli, University of British Columbia, Canada

Publication history

  1. Received: May 21, 2015
  2. Accepted: October 20, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: October 20, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: February 3, 2016 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2015, Olejarz et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Metrics

  • 2,811
    Page views
  • 583
    Downloads
  • 14
    Citations

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, Scopus, PubMed Central.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

  1. Further reading

Further reading

  1. How can natural selection favor the evolution of non-reproductive worker ants?

    1. Ecology
    2. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
    Lara Urban et al.
    Research Article

    While traditional microbiological freshwater tests focus on the detection of specific bacterial indicator species, including pathogens, direct tracing of all aquatic DNA through metagenomics poses a profound alternative. Yet, in situ metagenomic water surveys face substantial challenges in cost and logistics. Here, we present a simple, fast, cost-effective and remotely accessible freshwater diagnostics workflow centred around the portable nanopore sequencing technology. Using defined compositions and spatiotemporal microbiota from surface water of an example river in Cambridge (UK), we provide optimised experimental and bioinformatics guidelines, including a benchmark with twelve taxonomic classification tools for nanopore sequences. We find that nanopore metagenomics can depict the hydrological core microbiome and fine temporal gradients in line with complementary physicochemical measurements. In a public health context, these data feature relevant sewage signals and pathogen maps at species level resolution. We anticipate that this framework will gather momentum for new environmental monitoring initiatives using portable devices.