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Regulation of task partitioning by a "common stomach": a model of nest construction in social wasps

Listed author(s):
  • I. Karsai
  • T. Schmickl
Registered author(s):

    Metapolybia wasps construct their nests on flat surfaces using plant materials, which they process into paper. For processing the pulp wasps need water, which is collected by water foragers, and it is transferred to pulp foragers indirectly via a "common stomach." The common stomach is formed by generalist wasps that can engage in water exchange and can store water in their crops. Our goal is to provide an alternative model for regulating task partitioning in construction behavior, focusing on worker connectivity instead of using threshold curves to model mechanisms of colony-level regulation. We propose that the existence of an information center and of a network of worker interactions, which establish sets of positive and negative feedbacks, allow collective regulation of colony-wide behaviors. Using a Stock and Flow modeling framework, we illustrate that the common stomach could serve both as a temporal storage for water and also as a source of information about the colony's current demands related to nest construction tasks. Our model predicts that assessing colony needs via individual interactions with the common stomach leads to a robust regulation of task partitioning in construction behavior. Using perturbation experiments in our simulations, we show that this emergent task allocation is able to dynamically adapt to perturbations of the environment and to changes in colony-level demands or population structure. Our model closely mimics and predicts the behavior of Metapolybia wasps, demonstrating that the regulation mechanism based on worker connectivity through a common stomach is a plausible hypothesis for the organization of collective behavior. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

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    Article provided by International Society for Behavioral Ecology in its journal Behavioral Ecology.

    Volume (Year): 22 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 819-830

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    Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:4:p:819-830
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