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Nature. 1992 Jul 9;358(6382):147-9.

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

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Section of Neurobiology and Behaviour, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853.


Evolutionary conflicts of interest are expected to arise in genetically diverse social groups. In eusocial insect societies, a potential conflict exists between the queen and her workers over how active the workers should be, and evidence exists that queen aggression increases activity levels of her lazier workers. 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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