Friday, November 17, 2006

Police Are Not Soley a Human Invention

The life of wild animals seems like an appealing alternative to many of us, as it is devoid of the many rules and regulations all too present in human society. Police form an especially loathsome part in our lives, as they are the ones visibly reponsible for the enforcement of some of the less pertinent rules. Yet if we look close, real close, we see that some animal societies emulate these practices to an event greater extent close to that of dictatorship.

Animal societies such as paper wasps, ants, and termites seem to exhibit our idealized society, one based on cooperation and altruism. In actuality, these three species are quite opposite and the colonies cooperate not through will, but by coercion. In Asian paper wasp nests, only the queen is allowed to breed and this is very heavily enforced. When other wasps with lower rankings attempt to breed, their eggs are often devoured by the queen herself or by her lackies. Other theories suggest that the queen suppresses the ovarian development of the other workers. Fortunately for the workers in the paper wasp societies, many eggs evade the notice of this miniturized police force. In beehives the scenario is not so lucky, and almost all eggs are eaten or killed. Some social insects are organized so many of the castes are impotent and cannot reproduce, yet this is not always the case. In paper wasps, if by any chance the "alpha" queen dies, a "beta" female will assume her position. Also, some nests are known to have more than one queen.

By performing such behavior, the queen maintains a reproductive monopoly over the rest of the nest, and the only permittable offspring is from the queen's own chambers. Furthermore, the threat that the queen and her lackies pose prevents most workers from ever producing offspring. Workers, deprived of their ability to reproduce therefore attempt to further the fecundity of their mother. Although successful, a society based on fear is not the idealized society one imagines when they picture the carefree life of animals in nature.

Posted by TSK (11)


At 12:32 AM, Blogger PWH said...

this is a very interesting article.It reminds me a little of dictactorship. It is funny to see how animals are simmilar to hummans in various ways, especially like that.It would be funny to know if it happens sometimes that the workers ever tried to free themself and kill the queen. which is something that hummans would do when expose to a dictactor.
But it was interesting to learn this behavior,I always thought workers couldnt reproduce. Not by choice but because they physically couldn't .


At 4:04 AM, Blogger PWH said...

I agree with LYRS's comment ; it is a very interesting article. It is a good way of showing that humans arent the only beings on earth who use different levels of power to keep things together. Bascially It goes to show that the more higher up you are the more power you have i.e the queen wasp. I am interested to learn if there are more insects or animals that live like these do.

CMT (11)

At 12:24 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Frequently animals that live in groups have heirarchies in which dominance determines which individuals have mating oportunities. These typically sort themselves out through competition between two members of the group, in some primates a few will gang up together. It is interesting to look at a system that involves multiple individuals, who do not directly benefit from but are responsible for eliminating reproductive competition.


At 4:46 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Thanks for the interesting post. I was wondering what caste the queen's protectors had - were they workers, drones or something else? Your post also got me thinking about the benefits for an individual not to attempt to lay eggs. If the individual lived in a colony with a very effective "police force" which killed all or nearly all unauthorized eggs, then the individual might gain more by "behaving," thus contributing to the colony and ensuring that it ended up with more brothers and sisters to carry on its genetic legacy.

-Jonathan Caplan


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