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Title: Social Brain Energetics: Ergonomic Efficiency, Neurometabolic Scaling, and Metabolic Polyphenism in Ants

Metabolism, a metric of the energy cost of behavior, plays a significant role in social evolution. Body size and metabolic scaling are coupled, and a socioecological pattern of increased body size is associated with dietary change and the formation of larger and more complex groups. These consequences of the adaptive radiation of animal societies beg questions concerning energy expenses, a substantial portion of which may involve the metabolic rates of brains that process social information. Brain size scales with body size, but little is understood about brain metabolic scaling. Social insects such as ants show wide variation in worker body size and morphology that correlates with brain size, structure, and worker task performance, which is dependent on sensory inputs and information-processing ability to generate behavior. Elevated production and maintenance costs in workers may impose energetic constraints on body size and brain size that are reflected in patterns of metabolic scaling. Models of brain evolution do not clearly predict patterns of brain metabolic scaling, nor do they specify its relationship to task performance and worker ergonomic efficiency, two key elements of social evolution in ants. Brain metabolic rate is rarely recorded and, therefore, the conditions under which brain metabolism influences more » the evolution of brain size are unclear. We propose that studies of morphological evolution, colony social organization, and worker ergonomic efficiency should be integrated with analyses of species-specific patterns of brain metabolic scaling to advance our understanding of brain evolution in ants.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 1471-1478
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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