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A possible novel function of dominance behaviour in queen-less colonies of the primitively eusocial waspRopalidia marginata

Behavioural Processes
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2006.12.003
  • Aggression
  • Dominance Behaviour
  • Evolution Of Eusociality
  • Primitively Eusocial Wasp
  • Ropalidia Marginata


Abstract Unlike the queens of other primitively eusocial species, Ropalidia marginata queens are strikingly docile and non-aggressive individuals, never at the top of the behavioural dominance hierarchy of their colonies. Nevertheless, these queens are completely successful at suppressing worker reproduction, suggesting that they do not use aggression but employ some other mechanism (e.g. pheromones) to do so. Upon removal of the queen from a colony, a single worker, the ‘potential queen’, immediately begins to display highly elevated levels of aggression towards her nest mates. This individual becomes the next docile queen if the original queen is not returned. We attempt to understand the function of the temporary and amplified dominance behaviour displayed by the potential queen. We find that the dominance behaviour shown by the potential queen is unrelated to the number of her nest mates, their dominance ranks or ovarian condition. This suggests that aggression may not be used to actively suppress other workers and counter threat. Instead we find evidence that dominance behaviour is required for the potential queen's rapid ovarian development, facilitating her speedy establishment as the sole reproductive individual in the colony.

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