The Elements of Evolution (44-8) Insect Eusociality


Efficiencies are not just chemical. There are economies of scale in social organization. These can be cued chemically.

 Insect Eusociality

Social insect queen pheromones likely evolved from preexisting fertility signals directed at males. ~ Belgian evolutionary biologist Annette Van Oystaeyen et al

Eusocial wasps, bees, and ants possess unsurpassed coherent societies: so organized as to make human civilization look like mindless chaos. Hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of eusocial insects build elaborate nests which are run at an epitome of cleanliness and efficiency.

The lynchpin to the success of eusociality is reproductive division of labor. A queen devotes herself to laying eggs while her daughters take care of all else.

The key to this role relegation are fertility-related pheromones that arose are 145 million years old in the common ancestor to eusocial insects. A queen exudes a long-chained hydrocarbon that suppresses worker reproduction.

Employing selfsame pheromones, reproductive division of labor arose independently at 3 times via a highly conserved gene set. This distinctly led to eusociality at least 10 times.