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Title: Demographic inference provides insights into the extirpation and ecological dominance of eusocial snapping shrimps

Although eusocial animals often achieve ecological dominance in the ecosystems where they occur, many populations are unstable, resulting in local extinction. Both patterns may be linked to the characteristic demography of eusocial species—high reproductive skew and reproductive division of labor support stable effective population sizes that make eusocial groups more competitive in some species, but also lower effective population sizes that increase susceptibility to population collapse in others. Here, we examine the relationship between demography and social organization in Synalpheus snapping shrimps, a group in which eusociality has evolved recently and repeatedly. We show using coalescent demographic modeling that eusocial species have had lower but more stable effective population sizes across 100,000 generations. Our results are consistent with the idea that stable population sizes may enable competitive dominance in eusocial shrimps, but they also suggest that recent population declines are likely caused by eusocial shrimps’ heightened sensitivity to environmental changes, perhaps as a result of their low effective population sizes and localized dispersal. Thus, although the unique life histories and demography of eusocial shrimps have likely contributed to their persistence and ecological dominance over evolutionary time scales, these social traits may also make them vulnerable to contemporary environmental change.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Heredity
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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