Queen activation of lazy workers in colonies of the eusocial naked mole-rat

Abstract

EVOLUTIONARY conflicts of interest are expected to arise in genetically diverse social groups1. In eusocial insect societies, a potential conflict exists between the queen and her workers over how active the workers should be2–5, and evidence exists that queen aggression increases activity levels of her lazier workers2,3. Here I provide evidence that queen aggression (shoving) in laboratory colonies of the eusocial mammal, the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), is a convergently evolved manifestation of queen–worker conflict over worker activity. Queen-initiated shoves activate inherently lazy workers, which tend to be larger and/or less related to the queen than are infrequently shoved, industrious workers. In addition, queen removal selectively depresses the activity of workers that are larger and less related to her. Finally, queen shoving and worker inactivity are pronounced when colonies are satiated but not when colonies are hungry, indicating that the underlying 'work-conflict' is highly context-specific.

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