Does kin structure explain the occurrence of workers in a lower termite?
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Kinship plays a fundamental role in the origin of social life. It is also predicted to affect numerous details within animal societies, yet recent studies revealed equivocal results. We tested the influence of relatedness for the occurrence of workers in the termite Cryptotermes secundus. Here individuals are developmentally flexible to remain workers or to become dispersing sexuals that found new colonies. Furthermore, colony relatedness naturally increases with inbreeding and decreases when neighboring colonies fuse. Similar to recent studies on social Hymenoptera, our experimental change in relatedness gave equivocal results. Reducing relatedness within colonies did not have an effect, but individuals in inbred colonies were less likely to disperse and more likely to remain workers as predicted by kinship arguments. Several explanations for the interpretation of these equivocal results are provided.
KeywordsCooperation Kinship Relatedness Social evolution Termite
We wish to thank S. Schmidinger, S. Kirschner for help with data collection, K. Boomsma and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the manuscript, and M. Lenz for substantial support in Australia. The project was supported by the German Science Foundation (KO 1895/2-1). Environment Australia gave permission to export the termites (export permit no. PWS P20011508). The experiments performed comply with the current laws in Australia and Germany where the experiments were performed.
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