Location, location, location: larvae position inside the nest is correlated with adult body size in worker bumble bees (Bombus impatiens)

Couvillon, Margaret J and Dornhaus, Anna (2009) Location, location, location: larvae position inside the nest is correlated with adult body size in worker bumble bees (Bombus impatiens). Proceedings B: Biological Sciences, 276 (1666). pp. 2411-2418. ISSN 1471-2954

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Abstract

Social insects display task-related division of labour. In some species, division of labour is related to differences in body size, and worker caste members display morphological adaptations suited for particular tasks. Bumble-bee workers (Bombus spp.) can vary in mass by eight- to tenfold within a single colony, which previous work has linked to division of labour. However, little is known about the proximate mechanism behind the production of this wide range of size variation within the worker caste. Here, we quantify the larval feeding in Bombus impatiens in different nest zones of increasing distance from the centre. There was a significant difference in the number of feedings per larva across zones, with a significant decrease in feeding rates as one moved outwards from the centre of the nest. Likewise, the diameter of the pupae in the peripheral zones was significantly smaller than that of pupae in the centre. Therefore, we conclude that the differential feeding of larvae within a nest, which leads to the size variation within the worker caste, is based on the location of brood clumps. Our work is consistent with the hypothesis that some larvae are 'forgotten', providing a possible first mechanism for the creation of size polymorphism in B. impatiens.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Group 1045
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:49
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 17:01
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/18492
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