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Keywords:

  • social life;
  • cooperation;
  • evolution;
  • insect;
  • sex-specific behaviors

Abstract

The evolution of group living is generally associated with the emergence of social behaviors that ensure fitness benefits to group members. However, the expression of these behaviors may depend on group composition, which can vary over time with respect to sex, starvation status, and relatedness. Here, we investigated (1) whether adults of the group-living European earwig, Forficula auricularia, show cooperative behaviors toward conspecifics and (2) whether sex, food availability, and relatedness shape the nature and frequency of these behaviors. We conducted a full-factorial experiment using 108 unisexual pairs of adults, in which we manipulated these three factors and video-recorded the earwig behaviors for 45 min. Our results revealed that adults mostly expressed self-directed and aggressive behaviors. Nevertheless, they also showed allogrooming, a social behavior that offers scope for cooperation. Pairs of males displayed longer bouts of aggression and allogrooming (when it occurred) than pairs of females. Food deprivation had no effect on male behaviors, but females spent less time self-grooming and walking when they were food deprived. Finally, low relatedness between adults did not influence any of the measured behaviors, but exacerbated frass production, possibly due to social stress. Overall, these results indicate the limited role of cooperation among F. auricularia adults during their group-living phase.