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Larval helpers and age polyethism in ambrosia beetles

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Zitation

Biedermann, P., & Taborsky, M. (2011). Larval helpers and age polyethism in ambrosia beetles. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 108(41), 17064-17069. doi:10.1073/pnas.1107758108.


Zitierlink: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-508F-8
Zusammenfassung
Division of labor among the workers of insect societies is a conspicuous feature of their biology. Social tasks are commonly shared among age groups but not between larvae and adults with completely different morphologies, as in bees, wasps, ants, and beetles (i.e., Holometabola). A unique yet hardly studied holometabolous group of insects is the ambrosia beetles. Along with one tribe of ants and one subfamily of termites, wood-dwelling ambrosia beetles are the only insect lineage culturing fungi, a trait predicted to favor cooperation and division of labor. Their sociality has not been fully demonstrated, because behavioral observations have been missing. Here we present behavioral data and experiments from within nests of an ambrosia beetle, Xyleborinus saxesenii. Larval and adult offspring of a single foundress cooperate in brood care, gallery maintenance, and fungus gardening, showing a clear division of labor between larval and adult colony members. Larvae enlarge the gallery and participate in brood care and gallery hygiene. The cooperative effort of adult females in the colony and the timing of their dispersal depend on the number of sibling recipients (larvae and pupae), on the presence of the mother, and on the number of adult workers. This suggests that altruistic help is triggered by demands of brood dependent on care. Thus, ambrosia beetles are not only highly social but also show a special form of division of labor that is unique among holometabolous insects.