The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies

The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies

Language: English

Pages: 544

ISBN: 0393067041

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of The Ants render the extraordinary lives of the social insects in this visually spectacular volume.

The Superorganism promises to be one of the most important scientific works published in this decade. Coming eighteen years after the publication of The Ants, this new volume expands our knowledge of the social insects (among them, ants, bees, wasps, and termites) and is based on remarkable research conducted mostly within the last two decades. These superorganisms―a tightly knit colony of individuals, formed by altruistic cooperation, complex communication, and division of labor―represent one of the basic stages of biological organization, midway between the organism and the entire species. The study of the superorganism, as the authors demonstrate, has led to important advances in our understanding of how the transitions between such levels have occurred in evolution and how life as a whole has progressed from simple to complex forms. Ultimately, this book provides a deep look into a part of the living world hitherto glimpsed by only a very few.110 color, 100 black-and-white

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Evolution ofAnt Recruitment Signals andTrail Guides Design and Functional Efficiency of Pheromones Behavioral Modes of Recruitment Communication The Extreme Multiple Recruitment System of Weaver Ants Multimodal Signals, Parsimony, and Ritualization XII 183 206 214 218 221 Message and Meaning Modulatory Communication Motor Displays in Recruitment Communication Environmental Correlates of Recruitment Systems 229 231 235 247 The Measurement of Information 251 Tactile Communication and

often belong to both sexes, and in some species, labor is divided to some degree between the sexes. • More than 90 percent ofthe signals used in communication by these strange colonial creatures are chemical. The substances, the pheromones, are released XVI from exocrine glands located in various parts of the body. When smelled or tasted by other colony members, theyevoke a particular response, such as alarm, attraction, assembly, or recruitment. Sound or substrate-borne vibrations and touch

("soldier") and the other to maturity as a minor worker. These specialists, working together as a functional unit, are guided by sets of behavioral rules that operate in the following manner. If in a given context the worker encounters a certain stimulus, it predictably performs one act, and if the same stimalus is received in a different context, the worker performs a different act. For example, if a hungry larva is encountered in the brood chamber, the worker offers it food; if a larva is

colonies outcompcte those of other strains. To some extent, they also penetrate and alter wild environments, includingespecially the canopies of tropical forests. As ecosystems change by biological invasions, such as those of the Africanized honeybees, or by shifts in climate or by any other means, the relative abundances of the species composing the ecosystems also change. Some species are likely to drop out and new ones invade. As a consequence, the selection pressures on the individu als and

CHAPTER 3 XVI 5 6 7 8 A BriefHistory of Insect Sociobiology 10 GENETIC SOCIAL EVOLUTION 15 AnAbridged History of the Genetic Theory ofSocial Evolution 16 Multilevel Natural Selection 24 The Evolution of Eusociality Crossing the Eusociality Threshold Countervailing Forces of Selection Passing the Point of No Return 29 31 42 42 SOCIOGENESIS 51 The Colony Life Cycle Social Algorithms Self-Organization and Emergence Phylogenetic Inertiaand Dynamic Selection 53 53 58 60 CHAPTER 4

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