Development and evolution of caste dimorphism in honeybees – a modeling approach
Article first published online: 8 NOV 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Ecology and Evolution
Volume 2, Issue 12, pages 3098–3109, December 2012
How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2012; 2(12): 3098–3109
- Issue published online: 13 DEC 2012
- Article first published online: 8 NOV 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 3 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 1 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Received: 27 JUL 2012
- Swedish Research Council. Grant Number: 621-2010-5437
- Caste determination;
- developmental evolution;
- social insects
The difference in phenotypes of queens and workers is a hallmark of the highly eusocial insects. The caste dimorphism is often described as a switch-controlled polyphenism, in which environmental conditions decide an individual's caste. Using theoretical modeling and empirical data from honeybees, we show that there is no discrete larval developmental switch. Instead, a combination of larval developmental plasticity and nurse worker feeding behavior make up a colony-level social and physiological system that regulates development and produces the caste dimorphism. Discrete queen and worker phenotypes are the result of discrete feeding regimes imposed by nurses, whereas a range of experimental feeding regimes produces a continuous range of phenotypes. Worker ovariole numbers are reduced through feeding-regime-mediated reduction in juvenile hormone titers, involving reduced sugar in the larval food. Based on the mechanisms identified in our analysis, we propose a scenario of the evolutionary history of honeybee development and feeding regimes.