Life histories and energetics of bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) colonies and workers
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractSocial insect colonies are complex systems with emergent properties that arise from the cooperation and interaction amongst individuals within colonies. By dividing reproduction and physical labor amongst them, individuals contribute to the growth and ecological success of their colonies, a success that is greater than individuals could achieve on their own. A key characteristic of social insects is a division of labor amongst workers that is determined primarily either by age, morphology, or dominance. Social insects are considered one of the most ecologically successful groups of organisms on earth. Colony life cycles include: 1) growth, in which workers are produced, 2) reproduction, in which queens and males with reproductive capabilities are produced, and 3) senescence. In life history theory, phenotypic plasticity (i.e. a change in phenotype in response to an environmental change), allows organisms to adjust and optimize fitness in response the change in environments. Central to life history theory is the idea that traits have costs and benefits. Using an energetics framework that considers the costs and benefits of traits contributes to our understanding as to why organisms exhibit the sets of traits that they have within their ecological environments. Using the annual bumble bee Bombus impatiens, my dissertation investigates the effects of resource availability on worker production and on the relative allocation of energy towards growth and reproduction within colonies. Bumble bees have a morphological division of labor and concomitantly, they show large intra-colony size variation amongst workers. Because body size is an important life history trait, I also examined the costs and benefits of producing various sized workers. Lastly, I examined the association among worker body size, metabolic rate (a measure of maintenance costs), and lifespan.
Degree ProgramGraduate College