The evolution of complexity in social organization-A model using dominance-subordinate behavior in two social wasp species

J Theor Biol. 2013 Jun 21;327:34-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2013.01.010. Epub 2013 Jan 23.


Dominance and subordinate behaviors are important ingredients in the social organizations of group living animals. Behavioral observations on the two eusocial species Ropalidia marginata and Ropalidia cyathiformis suggest varying complexities in their social systems. The queen of R. cyathiformis is an aggressive individual who usually holds the top position in the dominance hierarchy although she does not necessarily show the maximum number of acts of dominance, while the R. marginata queen rarely shows aggression and usually does not hold the top position in the dominance hierarchy of her colony. In R. marginata, more workers are involved in dominance-subordinate interactions as compared to R. cyathiformis. These differences are reflected in the distribution of dominance-subordinate interactions among the hierarchically ranked individuals in both the species. The percentage of dominance interactions decreases gradually with hierarchical ranks in R. marginata while in R. cyathiformis it first increases and then decreases. We use an agent-based model to investigate the underlying mechanism that could give rise to the observed patterns for both the species. The model assumes, besides some non-interacting individuals, the interaction probabilities of the agents depend on their pre-differentiated winning abilities. Our simulations show that if the queen takes up a strategy of being involved in a moderate number of dominance interactions, one could get the pattern similar to R. cyathiformis, while taking up the strategy of very low interactions by the queen could lead to the pattern of R. marginata. We infer that both the species follow a common interaction pattern, while the differences in their social organization are due to the slight changes in queen as well as worker strategies. These changes in strategies are expected to accompany the evolution of more complex societies from simpler ones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Dominance*
  • Species Specificity
  • Wasps / classification
  • Wasps / genetics*