Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-2xdlg Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-24T04:29:16.093Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

3 - Kinship and fellowship in ants and social wasps

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 January 2010

Peter G. Hepper
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
Get access

Summary

Introduction

The complex societies of wasps, ants and bees constitute a special problem for the Darwinian theory of evolution. This did not escape the attention of Charles Darwin. He considered these insects to represent ‘one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me insuperable, and actually fatal to my whole theory’ (The Origin of Species, Chap. VII, p. 236). If we accept that natural selection operates at the level of individual organisms, it is difficult to comprehend just how it could occur in species like those of eusocial insects, where the majority of individuals are almost always excluded from reproduction because of morphological specializations which generally involve sterility. Darwin conceived of an explanation which allowed him to reconcile the existence of insect societies with his theory of natural selection (‘This difficulty, though appearing insuperable, is lessened, or, as I believe, disappears, when it is remembered that selection may be applied to the family, as well as to the individual …’: ibid., p. 237). This interpretation led eventually to a significant step forward, when an analogy was drawn between the multicellular organism and the insect society, which was conceptualized as a ‘superorganism’ (Wheeler, 1911; Emerson, 1952). After being neglected for some years, this theory has recently been rehabilitated (Lumsden, 1982; Jaisson, 1985; Wilson, 1985). This mode of thinking helps to resolve the difficulties in understanding the functioning of natural selection in insect societies. It suggests that the social group, as a unit, can be influenced by selective pressures, and that there is a relationship between the reproductive caste and the sterile worker caste comparable to that between the soma and the germ plasm of a multicellular organism.

Type
Chapter
Information
Kin Recognition , pp. 60 - 93
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1991

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×