The Spirit of the Hive

The Spirit of the Hive: the mechanisms of social evolution

Robert E. Page
Foreword By Bert Hölldobler
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Spirit of the Hive
    Book Description:

    How can 40,000 bees working in the dark, by instinct alone, construct a honey comb? Synthesizing decades of experiments, The Spirit of the Hive presents the genetic and physiological mechanisms underlying the division of labor in honey bee colonies and explains how it is an inevitable product of group living, evolving over millions of years.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-07554-2
    Subjects: Zoology, Developmental & Cell Biology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Bert Hölldobler

    The late Larry Slobodkin, the distinguished evolutionary geneticist and theoretician, once said, “Nature defeats theory.” I was frequently reminded of this wise revelation when I read The Spirit of the Hive. This book provides an avalanche of hard facts. Yes, it contains models too, but models that are based on solid scientific facts to serve as tools to design new experiments and to investigate unknown perspectives of the regulatory networks that constitute the foundation of division of labor in honey bee societies.

    This concisely written book by Robert Page opens a window for a deeper view of the genetic and...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 Darwin’s Dilemma and the Spirit of the Hive
    (pp. 1-9)

    Social insects have fascinated natural historians and philosophers since Aristotle and continue to fascinate us today with their self-sacrificing altruism, complex nest architecture, untiring industry, and division of labor. They presented Charles Darwin with special difficulties for his fledgling theory of evolution by natural selection. How can sterile castes, such as worker honey bees, wasps, and ants, evolve when they don’t normally reproduce? The existence of sterile castes seems to be in direct opposition to a theory that requires differential survival and reproductive success. Darwin considered an even bigger difficulty to be the observation that the reproductive individuals in colonies...

  6. 2 What Is the Spirit of the Hive?
    (pp. 10-49)

    One cannot observe a hive of honey bees without getting the feeling that they are engaged in highly coordinated and cooperative behavior. As discussed in Chapter 1, both Darwin and Maeterlinck struggled with how this can occur. It seems that there must be some kind of central control, but on careful examination, none can be found. This led Maeterlinck to invoke the “spirit of the hive.” But what is it? I will show here that the coordinated behavior long observed and admired emerges from a simple logic of self-organization and requires only that worker honey bees respond to stimuli that...

  7. 3 Individual Variation in Behavior
    (pp. 50-76)

    A fundamental question in behavioral biology is “Why does animal A do X while animal B does Y?” The answer is usually found by looking for differences in the experiences of the individuals, the environments they occupy, or the genes and developmental processes that build their anatomical, physiological, and behavioral phenotypes. Before the midto late 1980s, observable variation in behavior among nestmate social insects was attributed almost exclusively to nongenetic factors. I remember that when I first encountered the book edited by Robert Jeanne in 1988 titled Interindividual Behavioral Variability in Social Insects, a collection of chapters written by key...

  8. 4 The Evolution of Polyandry
    (pp. 77-109)

    Honey bee queens mate with a large number of males—they are polyandrous. Estimates of the number of mates range up to more than 20. Understanding polyandry is important for understanding the mechanisms of social behavior (the spirit of the hive) because there are phenotypic consequences of genetic variation at the individual and colony levels. But we also would like to understand its evolution, and it is important to keep the questions of consequences and evolution separate. Chapter 3 dealt with the behavioral consequences of within-colony genetic variation for behavior, some of which is a consequence of polyandry, some a...

  9. 5 The Phenotypic Architecture of Pollen Hoarding
    (pp. 110-147)

    In Chapter 2, I introduced the stone-soup model of how social organization with division of labor arises from the simple mechanism of individuals responding to stimuli in their environment, changing the stimuli through their actions, and thereby affecting the behavior of nestmates. I called this the “spirit of the hive,” an answer to Maurice Maeterlinck’s puzzle. In Chapter 3, I introduced genetic variation into the pot, building some additional complexity into the stone soup and changing the flavor. Chapter 4 showed how the polyandrous mating system that gives rise to increased genetic variation could evolve and links the mating behaviour...

  10. 6 The Genetic Architecture of Pollen Hoarding
    (pp. 148-168)

    Underlying the linkage of phenotypic traits is a network of genes and developmental processes. In this chapter, I will show how genes responsible for variation in anatomical, physiological, behavioral, and social phenotypes have broad effects across levels and interact with each other. In Chapters 7 and 8, I will overlay developmental process on the building of the social phenotype.

    Soon after I left The Ohio State University and took a faculty position at the University of California–Davis, I received a call from Greg Hunt, a prospective graduate student. Hunt had received a master’s in plant pathology and was working...

  11. 7 Reproductive Regulation of Division of Labor
    (pp. 169-190)

    The view of the genetic, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms of social organization has become progressively more detailed and complex throughout Chapters 5 and 6. The model is full of ingredients, each apparently essential, but without an understanding of how they interact to affect the social phenotype, the flavor—not Mulligan stew, but certainly no longer stone soup. I needed to look for a more simplified explanation, one that can be more easily understood. In particular, the phenotypic architecture of pollen hoarding needed an explanation. Genetic mapping revealed an underlying genetic architecture where multiple genes, in this case mapped as QTLs...

  12. 8 Developmental Regulation of Reproduction
    (pp. 191-207)

    In Chapter 7, I hypothesized that the reproductive signaling networks had been used by natural selection to build foraging division of labor in honey bees. I proposed that foraging for pollen (protein) and nectar (carbohydrate) reflected behavioral responses linked to the developmental states of ovaries. The fate of the ovary is determined during larval development. We need to look there for the signatures of pollen-hoarding selection.

    In the following sections, I first describe the queen and worker phenotypes and then show how they are determined by nutritional inputs provided to the larvae by the nurse bees. I make the argument...

  13. 9 The Regulatory Architecture of Pollen Hoarding
    (pp. 208-216)

    One goal while I was writing this book was to determine the kinds of changes that take place at different levels of biological organization as a consequence of selection on a colony-level phenotype. Another was to map mechanisms across levels and construct a cross-level metamap of related traits and their effects. In this chapter, I reconstruct what I have presented in Chapters 5–8 and present such a map.

    The regulation of pollen hoarding involves the local loading decisions (algorithms) of foragers as they visit flowers and recruitment of foragers for resources. Loading algorithms are influenced by within-hive stimuli, such...

  14. 10 A Crowd of Bees
    (pp. 217-218)

    Charles Darwin marveled at how honey bees can construct a wax comb even though each bee has only her instincts and limited information about her own small local environment. The end product is, however, in his mind nearly perfect. Maurice Maeterlinck, 50 years later, pondered the source of the organized social behavior and proposed a mystical “spirit of the hive,” wondering where it resides. In this book, I have shown that the stimulus-response relationships of individual bees, coupled with the effects of the behavior of individuals on the environment they share with nestmates, provide the basic mechanism for social behavior....

  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 219-220)
  16. Index
    (pp. 221-226)