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Policing Effectiveness Depends on Relatedness and Group Size

Bartosz Walter, Elisabeth Brunner and Jürgen Heinze
The American Naturalist
Vol. 177, No. 3 (March 2011), pp. 368-376
DOI: 10.1086/658396
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/658396
Page Count: 9
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Policing Effectiveness Depends on Relatedness and Group Size
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Abstract

AbstractCohesion of social groups requires the suppression of individual selfishness. Indeed, worker egg laying in insect societies is usually suppressed or punished through aggression and egg removal. The effectiveness of such “policing” is expected to increase with decreasing relatedness, as inclusive fitness of group members is more strongly affected by selfish worker reproduction when group members are less closely related to each other. As inclusive fitness is also influenced by the costs and benefits of helping, the effectiveness of policing should decrease with increasing colony size, because the costs for the whole colony from selfish worker reproduction are proportionally reduced in large groups. Here, we show that policing effectiveness in colonies of the ant Temnothorax unifasciatus is low in large groups and high in small groups when relatedness is high. When we experimentally decreased the relatedness in groups, the policing effectiveness reached the same high level as in small, highly related groups, irrespective of group size. Therefore, our results indicate that policing effectiveness is simultaneously shaped by relatedness and group size, that is, an ecological factor. This may have major implications for testing policing across species of animals.

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