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Why is eusociality an almost exclusively terrestrial phenomenon?

Ruxton, Graeme D.; Humphries, Stuart; Morrell, Lesley J.; Wilkinson, David M.


Graeme D. Ruxton

Stuart Humphries

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Dr Lesley Morrell
Associate Dean for Education (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

David M. Wilkinson


Andy White


1.Eusociality has evolved multiple times across diverse terrestrial taxa, and eusocial species fundamentally shape many terrestrial ecosystems. However, eusocial species are far less common and have much less ecological impact, in aquatic than terrestrial environments. 2.Here, we offer a potential explanation for these observations. It appears that a precondition for the evolution of eusociality is the defence and repeated feeding of offspring in a nest or other protected cavity, and so eusocial species must be able to exploit a predator-safe, long-lasting (multigenerational) expandable nest. We argue that a range of factors mean that opportunities for such nests are much more widespread and the advantages more compelling in terrestrial than aquatic ecosystems.


Ruxton, G. D., Humphries, S., Morrell, L. J., & Wilkinson, D. M. (2014). Why is eusociality an almost exclusively terrestrial phenomenon?. The journal of animal ecology, 83(6), 1248-1255.

Acceptance Date May 22, 2014
Online Publication Date Jun 24, 2014
Publication Date 2014-11
Deposit Date Oct 1, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Journal of animal ecology
Print ISSN 0021-8790
Electronic ISSN 1365-2656
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 83
Issue 6
Pages 1248-1255
Keywords Ants; Shrimp; Social insects; Sociality; Termites
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement ©2015 University of Hull
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article published in: Journal of animal ecology, 2014, v.83, issue 6.


2014 Ruxton et al - Aquatic ants.pdf (220 Kb)

Copyright Statement
©2015 University of Hull

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