The thousands of individuals living together in colonies of social insects function as integer entities which show coordinated group responses to a variety of stimuli. The organized responses only rarely resemble the summation of responses seen in individuals outside the social framework. The physiology of the individual ant, termite or honeybee that is a part of the unified whole superorganism is not remarkably different from that of other single insects, whether they are social or solitary (e.g. Rockstein 1978, 1987; Blum 1985; Kerkut and Gilbert 1985). Yet the social group itself often displays a “group physiology” which we discuss, using the honeybee colony, in this chapter, and which is very different from that shown by individuals isolated from the group. Physiological functions of the social unit are adaptations toward solving problems of homoeostasis that involve novel and fundamentally different mechanisms, than those utilized to solve the same problems in normal intact metazoans.
KeywordsSugar Carbohydrate Respiration Magnetite Compaction
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