A Potential Role for Phenotypic Plasticity in Invasions and Declines of Social Insects

Fabio Manfredini* (Corresponding Author), Marina Arbetman, Amy L. Toth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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Abstract

Eusociality, a form of animal social organization involving sterile and reproductive castes, is a rare, but highly ecologically successful form of life. There are striking examples of eusocial species with populations that are ecologically dominant in their native ranges, as well as remarkably successful globally as invasive species; prominent examples include fire ants and yellow jacket wasps. At the same time, there have been startling population declines in other social insects, notably bumble bees. Here, we explore the possible role of phenotypic plasticity in invasion biology and declines of social insect species. This topic is of particular interest, because social insects exhibit extreme behavioral, developmental, physiological, and morphological plasticity. It has been suggested that this plasticity may contribute to ecological dominance in some species, but could be a liability or cost to others. In this review, we explore the relationship between phenotypic plasticity, invasion biology, and vulnerability to global change in social insects. By considering plasticity at three levels-molecular, individual, and colony-we suggest ways in which considerations of phenotypic plasticity may help in managing social insect populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number375
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • social insect
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • species conservation
  • invasive species
  • global change
  • LIFE-HISTORY TRAITS
  • DIVISION-OF-LABOR
  • POLISTES-DOMINULUS HYMENOPTERA
  • BUMBLEBEE BOMBUS-TERRESTRIS
  • ARGENTINE ANT
  • FIRE ANTS
  • SOLENOPSIS-GEMINATA
  • DNA METHYLATION
  • ENEMY RELEASE
  • WOOD ANT

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