Resource limitation reveals a twofold benefit of eusociality [article]

Emanuel Fronhofer, Juergen Liebig, Oliver Mitesser, Hans Joachim Poethke
2016 bioRxiv   pre-print
Explaining the evolution and maintenance of cooperative breeding or eusociality remains a challenge. Surprisingly, fundamental ecological factors, specifically competition for limited resources and resource variance, are frequently ignored in models of animal sociality. We here develop a mathematical model that includes density-dependent population growth and quantify the influence of cooperative foraging on resource use efficiency. We derive optimal resource sharing strategies, ranging from
more » ... litarian to cooperatively breeding and eusocial groups. We find that, while egalitarian resource sharing is a risk-reducing foraging strategy, eusociality yields additional benefits: like egalitarian strategies, eusocial groups can reduce their members' starvation risk by reducing resource variance. Additionally, eusocial groups increase their reproductive output by increasing intra-group variance in resources allocated to reproduction. This allows reproduction even when resources are so scarce that solitary animals would not be able to reproduce. In a majority of environmental situations and life-histories, this twofold benefit of eusociality increased resource use efficiency and led to supersaturation, that is, to a strong increase in carrying capacity. Supersaturation provides indirect benefits to group members even for low intra-group relatedness and represents one potential explanation for the evolution and maintenance of eusociality and cooperative breeding.
doi:10.1101/053108 fatcat:ol5johlyhvgwdb355irp254uvq