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Do nutritionally poor environments promote sociality? Testing a long-standing hypothesis in two socially plastic insect groups


"Why individuals cooperate is an evolutionary puzzle. One longstanding
theory is that nutritionally poor environments reduce individuals’
chances of breeding independently, forcing cooperation with other
individuals. The proposed project will focus on testing this in the
field, using socially plastic species - insects that can be social or
solitary: Acacia thrips (Thysanoptera) and Halictine bees
(Hymenoptera). Working with Stephen Simpson at the University of
Sydney, a pioneer in nutritional approaches to ecological questions,
and Jeremy Field, at the University of Sussex, a world leader in
social evolution research, in field populations of both insect groups
I will test firstly whether social behaviour occurs more often on
nutritionally imbalanced food plants, and secondly whether
experimentally imbalancing the nutritional composition of food causes
previously independent breeders to decide instead to cooperate. If
successful, this will open up a paradigm that has been theorized but
never rigorously tested, representing a major contribution to social

Call for proposal

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Sussex house falmer
BN1 9RH Brighton
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Surrey, East and West Sussex Brighton and Hove
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Tina Lehmbeck (Ms.)
EU contribution
No data