Scientists study insect 'egg police'

November 8, 2006

British and Belgian scientists say social sanctions, not voluntary altruism, stop workers in insect societies from reproducing.

Writing in a brief communication appearing in the journal Nature, Francis Ratnieks of Britain's Sheffield University and Tom Wenseleers of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium say workers of many species of ant, bee and wasp do not lay eggs despite having functional ovaries.

Ratnieks and Wenseleers studied 10 single-queen species -- nine Vespidae wasps and the honeybee -- to test theories of worker altruism, social coercion and cooperation.

They found that when worker-laid eggs are killed by the queen or other workers, and when that type of "policing" is effective, the advantage to workers of laying eggs is reduced.

They argue social sanctions are what discourage selfish behavior and quip that that is in line with better law enforcement leading to fewer individuals behaving antisocially in human societies.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Sex determiner gene of honey bee more complicated that previously assumed

Related Stories

How does a honeybee queen avoid inbreeding in her colony?

April 29, 2015

Recombination, or crossing-over, occurs when sperm and egg cells are formed and segments of each chromosome pair are interchanged. This process plays an crucial role in the maintanance of genetic variation. Matthew Webster ...

Ag-tech could change how the world eats

December 14, 2014

Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world's newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming - the world's oldest industry - with an audacious agenda: to make sure there is enough ...

Recommended for you

Horn of Africa drying ever faster as climate warms

October 9, 2015

The Horn of Africa has become increasingly arid in sync with the global and regional warming of the last century and at a rate unprecedented in the last 2,000 years, according to new research led by a University of Arizona ...

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

Could 'The Day After Tomorrow' happen?

October 9, 2015

A researcher from the University of Southampton has produced a scientific study of the climate scenario featured in the disaster movie 'The Day After Tomorrow'.

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

Scientists paint quantum electronics with beams of light

October 9, 2015

A team of scientists from the University of Chicago and the Pennsylvania State University have accidentally discovered a new way of using light to draw and erase quantum-mechanical circuits in a unique class of materials ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.