When helpers from cooperative breeding animals have some expectation of direct reproduction, there is potential for conflict over how much aid they should provide to the colony. For example, if food is shared among all colony members, then higher levels of foraging by a helper would be desirable for the colony as a whole. However, because foraging is risky and physiologically costly, hopeful reproductive helpers could avoid foraging. Evidence suggests that this work-conflict could be resolved if helpers are aggressively coerced by their nestmates to provide aid. Here, we showed that in the primitively eusocial paper wasp Polistes versicolor, colony food starvation leads to an increasing in aggression that results in an increasing activity level (including foraging). We propose that aggression affects forage levels because (i) attacks from nestmates are directed toward known foragers rather than non-foragers; and (ii) resting wasps generally respond to aggression by becoming more active while already active wasps generally respond by switching the task they were doing. In P. versicolor, direct reproduction is an option for helpers. It means that they can be considered as hopeful reproductive individuals seeking to avoid performing risky behaviours, like foraging. In this sense, decentralized aggression from nestmates could be a coercive mechanism to force wasps performing undesirable tasks, while simultaneously enhancing the performance of a variety of other tasks.
Journal of Insect Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 1, 2017
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