Social groups are vulnerable to cheating because the reproductive interests of group members are rarely identical. All cooperative systems are therefore predicted to involve a mix of cooperative and cheating genotypes, with the frequency of the latter being constrained by the suppressive abilities of the former. The most significant potential conflict in social insect colonies is over which individuals become reproductive queens rather than sterile workers. Here, we show that one-fifth of leaf-cutting ant patrilines cheat their nestmates by biasing their larval development toward becoming queens rather than workers. Just as evolutionary theory predicts... The rarity of royal cheats is best explained as an evolutionary strategy to avoid suppression by cooperative genotypes, the efficiency of which is frequency-dependent. The results demonstrate that cheating can be widespread in even the most cooperative of societies and illustrate that identical principles govern social evolution in highly diverse systems.
Storyteller: Dr Bill Hughes from Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences
Genetic royal cheats in leaf-cutting ant societies
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