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Self-organization of plasticity and specialization in a primitively social insect.

Published version
Peer-reviewed

Type

Article

Change log

Authors

Patalano, Solenn 
Alsina, Adolfo 
Gregorio-Rodríguez, Carlos 
Bachman, Martin 
Dreier, Stephanie 

Abstract

Biological systems have the capacity to not only build and robustly maintain complex structures but also to rapidly break up and rebuild such structures. Here, using primitive societies of Polistes wasps, we show that both robust specialization and rapid plasticity are emergent properties of multi-scale dynamics. We combine theory with experiments that, after perturbing the social structure by removing the queen, correlate time-resolved multi-omics with video recordings. We show that the queen-worker dimorphism relies on the balance between the development of a molecular queen phenotype in all insects and colony-scale inhibition of this phenotype via asymmetric interactions. This allows Polistes to be stable against intrinsic perturbations of molecular states while reacting plastically to extrinsic cues affecting the whole society. Long-term stability of the social structure is reinforced by dynamic DNA methylation. Our study provides a general principle of how both specialization and plasticity can be achieved in biological systems. A record of this paper's transparent peer review process is included in the supplemental information.

Description

Keywords

behavioural ecology, biophysics, multi-omics, phenotypic plasticity, statistical physics, Animals, DNA Methylation, Phenotype, Wasps

Journal Title

Cell Syst

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

2405-4712
2405-4720

Volume Title

13

Publisher

Elsevier BV
Sponsorship
Wellcome Trust (209441/Z/17/Z)