Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher Starr

Social Stomach

  • Istvan KarsaiEmail author
  • Thomas Schmickl
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_111-1


Common stomach; Communal stomach; Social crop; Social gut

While most animals process food individually, we also find cases of shared food processing among conspecifics. In several bird species and social carnivore mammals, parents regurgitate partially digested food to their offspring. In some vampire bats, food is even shared with non-relatives to support them after unsuccessful foraging. In eusocial insect species, food sharing and processing among colony members is the rule rather than an exception. It is a common phenomenon in which repeated exchanges drive the collective storage and processing of food to an extreme degree. Such a “social stomach” (social crop, common stomach, social gut, communal stomach), is a system of individual digestive tracts that are connected by material flows between nestmates. In the superorganism view of insect societies, food processing is performed and regulated at the society level [6]. While workers have their individual digestive tracts...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  2. 2.Universität GrazGrazAustria