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Do nutritionally poor environments promote sociality? Testing a long-standing hypothesis in two socially plastic insect groups (INSSOCPLAS)
Start date: May 1, 2012, End date: Apr 30, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Why individuals cooperate is an evolutionary puzzle. One longstandingtheory is that nutritionally poor environments reduce individuals’chances of breeding independently, forcing cooperation with otherindividuals. The proposed project will focus on testing this in thefield, using socially plastic species - insects that can be social orsolitary: Acacia thrips (Thysanoptera) and Halictine bees(Hymenoptera). Working with Stephen Simpson at the University ofSydney, a pioneer in nutritional approaches to ecological questions,and Jeremy Field, at the University of Sussex, a world leader insocial evolution research, in field populations of both insect groupsI will test firstly whether social behaviour occurs more often onnutritionally imbalanced food plants, and secondly whetherexperimentally imbalancing the nutritional composition of food causespreviously independent breeders to decide instead to cooperate. Ifsuccessful, this will open up a paradigm that has been theorized butnever rigorously tested, representing a major contribution to socialbiology."
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