Ever wondered what a God's-eye-view of civil war looks like? No, neither have I, but I have wondered about something similar - a God's-eye-view of civil war within wasp colonies. In French Guiana last year, I did exhaustive behavioural analyses of the 'queen struggle' (the struggle for power over the colony that takes place amongst the surviving workers once the queen dies), all part of an experiment to test some intriguing hypotheses we have about wasp dominance behaviour.
Undergrad students Sinead Godson and Neil McIvor back in Bristol have been watching reams of video footage of this power struggle played out on two of my nests, and have produced fascinating projects using Elo rankings (the ranking system used in chess) to tackle questions of their own about these colonies. I'm currently working through each of my colonies to test my hypotheses. Using raw data from Sinead's work, I've plotted the dominance interactions between the wasps of one of the colonies from Sinnamary below. The colours refer to particular external information about the wasps - a categorisation system that will allow me to tease apart the behaviours.
So, if you want to know what a God's-eye-view of civil war (in wasps) looks like, it looks a little bit like this:
Watch this space as we go deeper into the social struggles of life on a primitively-eusocial wasp colony!
Adventures of a
Dr Patrick Kennedy
Postdoc in zoology at the University of Bristol