Evolution of worker policing

J Theor Biol. 2016 Jun 21;399:103-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2016.03.001. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Workers in insect societies are sometimes observed to kill male eggs of other workers, a phenomenon known as worker policing. We perform a mathematical analysis of the evolutionary dynamics of policing. We investigate the selective forces behind policing for both dominant and recessive mutations for different numbers of matings of the queen. The traditional, relatedness-based argument suggests that policing evolves if the queen mates with more than two males, but does not evolve if the queen mates with a single male. We derive precise conditions for the invasion and stability of policing alleles. We find that the relatedness-based argument is not robust with respect to small changes in colony efficiency caused by policing. We also calculate evolutionarily singular strategies and determine when they are evolutionarily stable. We use a population genetics approach that applies to dominant or recessive mutations of any effect size.

Keywords: Evolutionary dynamics; Models/simulations; Natural selection; Sociobiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Genes, Recessive / genetics
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Hierarchy, Social*
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Numerical Analysis, Computer-Assisted
  • Ovum / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal