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Type: Journal article
Title: Social complexity in bees is not sufficient to explain lack of reversions to solitary living over long time scales
Author: Chenoweth, L.
Tierney, S.
Smith, J.
Cooper, S.
Schwarz, M.
Citation: BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2007; 7(246):WWW 1-WWW 9
Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.
Issue Date: 2007
ISSN: 1471-2148
Statement of
Luke B. Chenoweth, Simon M. Tierney, Jaclyn A. Smith, Steven J.B. Cooper and Michael P. Schwarz
Abstract: <h4>Background</h4>The major lineages of eusocial insects, the ants, termites, stingless bees, honeybees and vespid wasps, all have ancient origins (> or = 65 mya) with no reversions to solitary behaviour. This has prompted the notion of a 'point of no return' whereby the evolutionary elaboration and integration of behavioural, genetic and morphological traits over a very long period of time leads to a situation where reversion to solitary living is no longer an evolutionary option.<h4>Results</h4>We show that in another group of social insects, the allodapine bees, there was a single origin of sociality > 40 mya. We also provide data on the biology of a key allodapine species, Halterapis nigrinervis, showing that it is truly social. H. nigrinervis was thought to be the only allodapine that was not social, and our findings therefore indicate that there have been no losses of sociality among extant allodapine clades. Allodapine colony sizes rarely exceed 10 females per nest and all females in virtually all species are capable of nesting and reproducing independently, so these bees clearly do not fit the 'point of no return' concept.<h4>Conclusion</h4>We argue that allodapine sociality has been maintained by ecological constraints and the benefits of alloparental care, as opposed to behavioural, genetic or morphological constraints to independent living. Allodapine brood are highly vulnerable to predation because they are progressively reared in an open nest (not in sealed brood cells), which provides potentially large benefits for alloparental care and incentives for reproductives to tolerate potential alloparents. We argue that similar vulnerabilities may also help explain the lack of reversions to solitary living in other taxa with ancient social origins.
Keywords: Animals
Nesting Behavior
Social Behavior
Evolution, Molecular
Rights: © 2007 Chenoweth et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited
DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-7-246
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