Behavioral and developmental homeostasis in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta.
The von Bertalanffy rule (1960) predicts that low incubation temperature during larval development will result in larger adult body size. If larval development in social insects followed this rule, then low incubation temperature would induce the development of larger workers and possibly even sexuals. To test this prediction, the effect of incubation temperature on larval development, larval meal size, larval tending and worker recruitment to food in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta was investigated. Temperatures tested where within the range at which brood remains viable. Contrary to the predictions of the von Bertalanffy rule, worker size was unaffected by incubation temperature, and sexuals were reared at the high rather than the low incubation temperature. Moreover, larval meal size, the rate of larval tending by workers and the total number of workers recruited to food were unaffected by temperature. Mechanisms regulating developmental and behavioral homeostasis were as follows: the duration of larval development and the rate of larval growth changed proportionately with temperature such that the mean and variation of pupal size was unaffected by incubation temperature. Larvae solicited at the same rate, swallowed at the same rate and swallowed for the same duration such that meal size was unaffected by incubation temperature. On the brood pile, fewer workers tended brood at higher incubation temperatures, but worker tempo increased; as a result, brood tending was not adversely affected by incubation temperature. The rate of worker recruitment to food sites outside the nest increased with temperature, but the duration of the recruitment effort decreased such that, over time, the same total number of workers was employed to retrieve food. Incubation humidity was also investigated. When brood chambers were less than 100% humid, workers recruited to food and tended larvae (retrieved, sorted and groomed them), but did not feed larvae. Eventually, larvae died of starvation and were cannibalized.
Cassill, D.L. & Tschinkel, W.R. (2000). Behavioral and developmental homeostasis in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Journal of Insect Physiology, 46, 933-939.
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