Small worker bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) are hardier against starvation than their larger sisters

Couvillon, Margaret J and Dornhaus, A (2010) Small worker bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) are hardier against starvation than their larger sisters. Insectes Sociaux, 57 (2). pp. 193-197. ISSN 0020-1812

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Abstract

In bumble bees (Bombus spp.), where workers within the same colony exhibit up to a tenfold difference in mass, labor is divided by body size. Current adaptive explanations for this important life history feature are unsatisfactory. Within the colony, what is the function of the smaller workers? Here, we report on the differential robustness to starvation of small and large worker bumble bees (Bombus impatiens); when nectar is scarce, small workers remain alive significantly longer than larger workers. The presence of small workers, and size variation in general, might act as insurance against times of nectar shortage. These data may provide a novel, adaptive explanation, independent of division of labor, for size polymorphism within the worker caste.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Group 1045
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:10
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 17:09
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/29938
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