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Keywords:

  • allometry;
  • developmental evolution;
  • eusociality;
  • indirect genetic effects;
  • interacting phenotypes

Abstract

Social evolution in honey bees has produced strong queen–worker dimorphism for plastic traits that depend on larval nutrition. The honey bee developmental programme includes both larval components that determine plastic growth responses to larval nutrition and nurse components that regulate larval nutrition. We studied how these two components contribute to variation in worker and queen body size and ovary size for two pairs of honey bee lineages that show similar differences in worker body–ovary size allometry but have diverged over different evolutionary timescales. Our results indicate that the lineages have diverged for both nurse and larval developmental components, that rapid changes in worker body–ovary size allometry may disrupt queen development and that queen–worker dimorphism arises mainly from discrete nurse-provided nutritional environments, not from a developmental switch that converts variable nutritional environments into discrete phenotypes. Both larval and nurse components have likely contributed to the evolution of queen–worker dimorphism.