A queen ant (Lasius niger) being attacked by her workers. Colonies sometimes ‘vote out’ queens whose cuticular hydrocarbons signal sub-par fecundity. Photo: David Nash.

Evolution in social insects

A queen ant (Lasius niger) being attacked by her workers. Colonies sometimes ‘vote out’ queens whose cuticular hydrocarbons signal sub-par fecundity. Photo: David Nash.

Evolution in social insects

The eusocial insects (e.g. bees, ants, wasps, and termites) are united by a remakable trait: some individuals give up the opportunity to reproduce, and instead acts as helpers to enhance the reproduction of other individuals. I am interested in how and why the social insect ‘caste system’ of queens and workers evolved, and how evolution has shaped their biology. I am especially interested in the role of queen pheromones in evolution and colony life.

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Luke Holman
Senior Lecturer

Publications

Many ants, bees, and wasps use similar or identical chemicals as queen pheromones, even though these taxa diverged >150MYA, and …

The breeding and non-breeding ‘castes’ of eusocial insects provide a striking example of role-specific selection, where each caste …

In a recent study, Amsalem, Orlova & Grozinger (2015) performed experiments with Bombus impatiens bumblebees to test the hypothesis …

The major transition to eusociality required the evolution of a switch to canalize development into either a reproductive or a helper, …

Queen pheromones mediate the reproductive division of labor in social insect colonies and provide novel opportunities for investigating …

DNA methylation is emerging as an important regulator of polyphenism in the social insects. Research has concentrated on differences in …

Queen pheromones are among the most important chemical messages regulating insect societies yet they remain largely undiscovered, …

Queen pheromones are chemical signals produced by reproductive individuals in social insect colonies. In many species they are key to …

Eusocial insects exhibit reproductive division of labour, in which one or a few queens perform almost all of the reproduction, while …

The nonreproductive helpers of many arthropod, bird and mammal species are a perennial puzzle for evolutionary biologists. Theory and …

Reproductive skew theory seeks to explain how reproduction is divided among group members in animal societies. Existing theory is …

Organisms are predicted to behave more favourably towards relatives, and kin-biased cooperation has been found in all domains of life …

The ultimate causes of honest signaling remain a subject of debate, with questions remaining over the relative importance of costs and …

Communication between organisms involves visual, auditory, and olfactory pathways. In solitary insects, chemical recognition cues are …

Social organisms have evolved diverse and complex regulatory mechanisms that allow them to coordinate group-level functions. Signals …

Signal costs and evolutionary constraints have both been proposed as ultimate explanations for the ubiquity of honest signaling, but …

Sperm competition can produce fascinating adaptations with far‐reaching evolutionary consequences. Social taxa make particularly …

Social animals use recognition cues to discriminate between group members and non-members. These recognition cues may be conceptualized …

The paper by Nowak et al. has the evolution of eusociality as its title, but it is mostly about something else. It argues against …

Group-living species produce signals that alter the behavior and even the physiology of their social partners. Social insects possess …

The selective forces that shape and maintain eusocial societies are an enduring puzzle in evolutionary biology. Ordinarily sterile …

Social insects offer unique opportunities to test predictions regarding the evolution of cooperation, life histories and communication. …