The Establishment and Maintenance of Division of Labour in the Indian Paper Wasp Ropalidia marginata

Raghavendra Gadagkar

DST Year of Science Chair Professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore



Social insects such as ants, bees, wasps, and termites have achieved unparalleled ecological success, dominating terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. A significant factor that has made this possible is their efficient division of labour. Firstly, they exhibit a reproductive division of labour such that only one or a small number of individuals reproduce, leaving the remaining sterile workers free to undertake the tasks of nest building, colony defence, brood care and foraging. Secondly, they also exhibit non-reproductive division of labour such that different sub-groups of workers specialize in undertaking sub-sets of non-reproductive tasks. The twin benefits of task specialization and parallel processing help them to outperform their solitary counterparts. Using the Indian paper Ropalidia marginata, we have attempted to under how reproductive and non-reproductive division of labour are established in newly founded colonies and maintained in established colonies with many new-generation individuals.

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