Worker Policing

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Worker policing is the behavioral inhibition of worker reproduction by other workers.

  • Shimoji, H., T. Kikuchi, H. Ohnishi, N. Kikuta, and K. Tsuji. 2018. Social enforcement depending on the stage of colony growth in an ant. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 285:6 (doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.2548 10.1098/rspb.2017.2548).

Abstract Altruism is a paradox in Darwinian evolution. Policing is an important mechanism of the evolution and maintenance of altruism. A recently developed dynamic game model incorporating colony demography and inclusive fitness predicts that, in hymenopteran social insects, policing behaviour enforcing reproductive altruism in group members depends strongly on the colony growth stage, with strong policing as the colony develops and a relaxation of policing during the reproductive phase. Here, we report clear evidence supporting this prediction. In the ant Diacamma sp., reproduction by workers was suppressed by worker policing when the colony was small, whereas in large, mature colonies worker policing was relaxed and worker-produced males emerged. Conditional expression of traits can provide strong empirical evidence for natural selection theory if the expression pattern is precisely predicted by the theory, and our results illustrate the importance of intracolony population dynamics in the evolution of social systems.