Proceedings of the Royal Society of London vol:274 issue:1616 pages:1421-1428
Most animal societies are non-clonal and thus subject to conflicts. In social insects, conflict over male production can be resolved by worker policing, i.e. eating of worker-laid eggs (WLE) or aggression towards reproductive workers. All workers in a colony have an interest in policing behaviour being expressed, but there can be asymmetries among workers in performing the actual behaviour. Here, we show that workers of the ant Pachycondyla inversa specialize in policing behaviour. In two types of behavioural assays, workers developed their ovaries and laid eggs. In the first experiment, reproductive workers were introduced into queenright colonies. In the second experiment, WLE were introduced. By observing which individuals policed, we found that aggressive policing was highly skewed among workers that had opportunity to police, and that a similar tendency occurred in egg policing. None of the policing workers had active ovaries, so that policing did not incur a direct selfish benefit to the policer. This suggests that policing is subject to polyethism, just like other tasks in the colony. We discuss several hypotheses on the possible causes of this skew in policing tasks. This is the first non-primate example of specialization in policing tasks without direct selfish interests.