ENVIRONMENTAL HIERARCHY, BEHAVIORAL CONTEXTS, AND SOCIAL EVOLUTION IN INSECTS

W. T. Wcislo

Abstract



Social insects are frequently used to investigate the importance of kinship (genetic re­latedness) in the evolution of complex societies. These genetic studies often downplay the organi­zing roles of the environment in shaping the development and expression of socially-relevant traits. As noted by Hamilton (1964) in his original formulation of "genetical" approaches to understan­ding sociality, the social environment plays a major role in determining phenotypes of social orga­nisms Each level of biological organization (c.g. genome, cell, individual, social group) has its own environment. At different levels of biological organization, environmental factors (i) act as tri­ggers for developmental processes; and (ii) define natural selective processes. An explicit focus on phenotypes, at different levels of biological organization with different levels of environments, provides a framework to usc the evolution of insect sociality as a tool to integrate studies of deve­lopment and evolution. Special attention is drawn to areas that need further study, especially tor tropical species, to complement the wealth of genetic studies and information on temperate species.



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