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Inquiline social parasites as tools to unlock the secrets of insect sociality

Cini, A; Sumner, S; Cervo, R; (2019) Inquiline social parasites as tools to unlock the secrets of insect sociality. Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences (In press).

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Abstract

Insect societies play a crucial role in the functioning of most ecosystems and have fascinated both scientists and the lay public for centuries. Despite the long history of study, we are still far from understanding how insect societies have evolved and how social cohesion in their colonies is maintained. Here we suggest inquiline social parasites of insect societies as an under-exploited experimental tool for understanding sociality. We draw on examples from obligate inquiline (permanent) social parasites in wasps, ants and bees to illustrate how these parasites may allow us to better understand societies and learn more about the evolution and functioning of insect societies. We highlight three main features of these social parasite-host systems - namely, close phylogenetic relationships, strong selective pressures arising from co-evolution, and multiple independent origins - that make inquiline social parasites particularly suited for this aim; we propose a conceptual comparative framework that considers trait losses, gains and modifications in social parasite-host systems. We give examples of how this framework can reveal the more elusive secrets of sociality by focusing on two cornerstones of sociality: communication and reproductive division of labour. Together with social parasites in other taxonomic groups, such as cuckoos in cooperative breeding birds, social parasitism has a great potential to reveal the mechanisms and evolution of complex social groups.

Type: Article
Title: Inquiline social parasites as tools to unlock the secrets of insect sociality
Publisher version: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/journal/rstb
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: social parasitism, social insects, coevolutionary arms race, sensory deception, communication, reproductive division of labour
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10065489
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