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Social Regulation of Foraging Activities in Polistes Dominulus Christ: a Systemic Approach To Behavioural Organization

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We studied the processes involved in the reorganization of individual behavioural profiles when the foragers were repeatedly removed on a weekly basis. Neither the age nor the hierarchical rank of the individual directly determined the development of its behavioural profile towards that of a forager profile after removal of the former foragers. However, the closeness of the relationship with the brood seems to have been decisive in the adopting of a new task by the individual. We suggest a model for the functioning of the Polistes society and its organizational genesis which involves two levels of regulation acting simultaneously. The dominance hierarchy results in a primary differentiation of behavioural states among the various members of the society. Each individual reacts preferentially according to its own behavioural state to specific categories of environmental stimulations. The type of action which it exerts on the environment both determines its momentary specialization in a specific task and modifies the stimulating situation, which then has lesser effects on the other individuals in the colony. These two processes act in parallel on all the individuals and contribute to maintaining a society with a stable, self-regulated organization. Task organization in the group can therefore be said to be a distributed function which does not require the presence of an individual central organizer.

Affiliations: 1: (CNRS-UPR 38, 31 chemin Joseph-Aiguier, 13402 Marseille cedex 09, France

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