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Abstract

Outcomes of conflicts among social animals can strongly affect individual fitness and therefore partly determine how sociality evolves. In the social wasp, Polistes annularis, conflicts over egg laying result in a linear dominance hierarchy discernible from which wasps attack which others. We investigated the structure and maintenance of dominance hierarchies in colonies containing both nest foundresses and workers. We also investigated the outcome of a potential conflict between foundresses and workers over the identity of the female which becomes queen after the original queen disappears. To investigate queen replacement we recorded individuals' behavior before and after removal of the queen from 13 nests. This experiment simulated natural queen disappearance which occurs frequently. All foundresses were ranked over workers; high ranking females were most aggressive and directed most of their attacks to the female directly beneath them in the hierarchy. This hierarchy determined succession to queenship; the beta female became queen within 3 h. Therefore a foundress became the new queen whenever one was present. There was no evidence of conflict between workers and foundresses when a foundress became queen. This chance of becoming queen contributes to the expected fitness of a female that accepts a subordinate role in spring.