For the Swarm! –The appearance of insectoid behavior in the naked mole-rat
For the Swarm! –How did insectoid behavior come about in the naked mole-rat
First, a brief introduction on the naked mole-rat, Heterocephalus Glaber:
Eusociality is a form of animal social behavior that involves a highly intricate caste system. The characteristics of eusociality includes having multiple generations of the species residing in the same colony, specialization of labour, and a high level of coordination in rearing the young (Hardisty & Cassill, 2009). This term had traditionally been used by researchers to describe the social behavior of invertebrates. However, social structures similar to those of bees ants and wasps, although rare in occurrence, can also be found in mammals such as the naked mole-rat, Heterocephalus glaber (Hardisty & Cassill, 2009).
This discovery had baffled researchers, as the sacrificial behavior of each individual in the colony in terms of breeding did not seem favorable by natural selection. Yet, species that exercise this form of social behavior continued to strive. Hamilton’s theorem states that by selectively introducing sterility to genetically less capable individuals, it can support the genes and reproductive successes of their close relatives (Braude, 1991).
Researchers believe that naked mole-rats had not always been eusocial, and this behavior only came about due to the harsh conditions that surrounded the naked mole-rat’s ancestors. The natural ability of a mole rat to breed massively in a year allowed individuals to forgo their breeding ability and focus on taking care of their siblings, all in order to increase the probability of survival of the young within those harsh conditions (Braude, 1991). The nests are also extremely safe, and this property allows the naked mole rats to harbour a single queen to assume all breeding responsibilities for the entire colony, as she can be easily protected (Braude, 1991). These advantages and adaptations proved to be more effective in survival fitness than the conventional behavior in other mammals in the context of naked mole-rats, which is why they became eusocial.
Braude, S. (1991). The behavior and demographics of the naked mole-rat, Heterocephalus glaber. Michigan: University of MICHIGAN. Retrieved April 05, 2013
Hardisty, B. E., & Cassill, D. L. (2009). Extending eusociality to include vertebrate family units. Published online: Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009. Retrieved April 05, 2013
Zefrank1 (Director). (2013). True Facts About The Naked Mole Rat [Motion Picture]. YouTube Channel. Retrieved April 05, 2013, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHi9FvUPSdQ&list=UUVpankR4HtoAVtYnFDUieYA&index=3