The ecology and evolution of colony-size variation

Brown, Charles
October 2016
Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology;Oct2016, Vol. 70 Issue 10, p1613
Academic Journal
Animals often breed in colonies that can vary in size by several orders of magnitude. Colony-size variation is perplexing because individuals in some colony sizes have lower fitness than those in other colony sizes, yet extensive size variation persists in most populations. Natural variation in colony size has allowed us to better quantify the costs and benefits of coloniality, but what causes and maintains size variation is in general unknown. Ecological correlates of colony-size variation potentially include local availability of resources, such as food or nesting sites, and may also reflect individuals' sorting among colonies (based on life-history traits, morphology, or behavioral propensities) to find the social environment to which they are best suited. Preferences for particular colony sizes are genetically based in some species. The fitness differences observed among colony sizes may reflect unmeasured tradeoffs among life-history components and also could vary temporally or spatially. Colony-size variation might be maintained by fluctuating directional or stabilizing selection that alternately favors individuals in different group sizes and leads to stasis in the colony-size distribution over the long term. Recent focus on the cues individuals use to select breeding habitat (e.g., conspecific attraction, reproductive success of others) does not satisfactorily explain variation in colony size. Costs of dispersal, reliance on imperfect information, and collective nonrandom movement can also lead to colony-size variation in the absence of fitness-based site selection. Our understanding of factors generating and maintaining variation in colony size remains in its infancy and offers many opportunities for future research with broad implications for behavioral ecology.


Related Articles

  • Developmental constraints versus flexibility in morphological evolution. Koops, Kees; Beldade, Patricia; Brakefield, Paul M. // Nature;4/25/2002, Vol. 416 Issue 6883, p844 

    Evolutionary developmental biology has encouraged a change of research emphasis from the sorting of phenotypic variation by natural selection to the production of that variation through development[SUP1]. Some morphologies are more readily generated than others, and developmental mechanisms can...

  • Affinities between Liatris cokeri Pyne & Stucky (Asteraceae), a sandhills endemic of the Carolinas and its widely distributed relative, L. graminifolia Willd Stucky, Jon M. // American Midland Naturalist;Apr1991, Vol. 125 Issue 2, p323 

    No abstract available.

  • Perception, Interaction, and Extinction: A Reply to Premo. Barton, C.; Riel-Salvatore, Julien // Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal;Oct2012, Vol. 40 Issue 5, p797 

    The article offers the authors' insights on the argument of L. Premo to their paper concerning biocultural evolution. They mention that dismissal of Premo to archeological evidence that they presented to their paper indicates the unfamiliarity of Premo with published studies that support their...

  • Subterranean Termites of the Oklahoma Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Cross Timbers. Smith, Matthew P.; Smith, Anita L.; Kard, Brad; Brown, Kenneth S.; Broussard, Greg H. // American Midland Naturalist;Jan2012, Vol. 167 Issue 1, p56 

    A study was conducted to characterize termite colonies on the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Cross Timbers habitat in northeastern Oklahoma. The two test sites were established on a prescribed-burn area and no-burn area of the Cross Timbers habitat. Termites were identified...

  • Hypothesis Testing in Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Case Study from Insect Wings. Jockusch, E. L.; Ober, K. A.; Holsinger, Kent E. // Journal of Heredity;Sep/Oct2004, Vol. 95 Issue 5, p382 

    Developmental data have the potential to give novel insights into morphological evolution. Because developmental data are time-consuming to obtain, support for hypotheses often rests on data from only a few distantly related species. Similarities between these distantly related species are...

  • The ontogeny of Loxoconcha japonica Ishizaki, 1968 (Cytheroidea, Ostracoda, Crustacea). Smith, Robin J.; Kamiya, Takahiro // Hydrobiologia;Jan2003, Vol. 490 Issue 1-3, p31 

    The ontogeny of the cytheroidean species Loxoconcha japonica is documented from the earliest instar to the adult. The first instar (instar A-8) of L. japonica is different from that of cypridoidean species in that it has an additional appendage, the furca, present. From instar A-7 onwards, the...

  • Retroposed Elements as Archives for the Evolutionary History of Placental Mammals. Kriegs, Jan Ole; Churakov, Gennady; Kiefmann, Martin; Jordan, Ursula; Brosius, Jörgen; Schmitz, Jürgen // PLoS Biology;Apr2006, Vol. 4 Issue 4, pe91 

    Reconstruction of the placental mammalian (eutherian) evolutionary tree has undergone diverse revisions, and numerous aspects remain hotly debated. Initial hierarchical divisions based on morphology contained many misgroupings due to features that evolved independently by similar selection...

  • Origin and evolution of feather mites (astigmata) Dabert, Jacek; Mironov, Serge V. // Experimental & Applied Acarology;Jun1999, Vol. 23 Issue 6, p437 

    Feather mites are highly specialized plumage and skin ectoparasites that are variously adapted for inhabiting certain microhabitats on a bird's body. Different feather mite taxa of higher (familial) rank adapted to the same microhabitats display similar main morphological adaptations even if...

  • The illusion of diffusion: Field evidence for depth-dependent sediment transport. Heimsath, Arjun M.; Furbish, David Jon; Dietrich, William E. // Geology;Dec2005, Vol. 33 Issue 12, p949 

    Soil-covered upland landscapes are common in much of the habitable world, and our understanding of their evolution as a function of different climatic, tectonic, and geologic regimes is important across a wide range of disciplines. Erosion laws direct quantitative study of the processes shaping...

  • VIBROSEISMOACOUSTIC METHOD IN STUDYING OF GEOPHYSICAL FIELDS INTERACTION IN GROUND ATMOSPHERE. Khairetdinov, Marat; Kovalevsky, Valerii; Voskoboinikova, Gyulnara; Sedukhina, Galina // Proceedings of the International Multidisciplinary Scientific Ge;2014, Vol. 1, p925 

    This paper presents the results of experimental investigations of the original ecologically safe approach as related to the assessment of the geoecological risk from powerful mass explosions for the social and natural environment. In this approach, seismic vibrators are used as sources imitating...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics