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Sociality and sex allocation in an Australian allodapine bee Braunsapis protuberans

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Herein the first detailed study of sociality and life history in an Australian species of the allodapine bee genus Braunsapis is provided. Colonies of B. protuberans were sampled from the Great Sandy National Park in Queensland from late winter until later summer. Single-female colonies appear to have suffered substantially higher rates of total brood loss, or failure to produce brood, than multifemale colonies, but rearing efficiency in colonies with at least some brood did not differ between these two colony types. There was marked reproductive skew in multifemale colonies and ovary size was strongly linked to relative body size. However, females with smaller body size and smaller ovaries also had lower levels of wing wear, suggesting that they do not specialise in foraging. These patterns are similar to an African species, Braunsapis vitrea, and suggest that colonies may principally comprise a dominant reproductive female who provides food for her juvenile offspring, along with a variable number of subordinate females who may be waiting to inherit their natal nest in the event of their mother's death. However, it is likely that in such events, the remaining female(s) will care for orphaned brood as some single-female colonies contained substantial older brood, even though the sole female had little or no wing wear. Such alloparental care in the case of orphaning may help explain the high level of female bias in sex ratios.
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Keywords: reproductive queue; reproductive skew; worker

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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