The spirit of the hive: the mechanisms of social evolution.

The spirit of the hive: the mechanisms of social evolution. Robert E. Page.

Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. Octavo, dustwrapper, colour photographs, line drawings.

Synthesising the findings of decades of experiments, this book presents a comprehensive picture of the genetic and physiological mechanisms present in honey bee colonies and explains how bees' complex social behaviour has evolved over millions of years. Robert Page, one of the foremost honey bee geneticists in the world, sheds light on how the coordinated activity of hives arises naturally when worker bees respond to stimuli in their environment. The actions they take in turn alter the environment and so change the stimuli for their nest mates. For example, a bee detecting ample stores of pollen in the hive is inhibited from foraging for more, whereas detecting the presence of hungry young larvae will stimulate pollen gathering. Division of labour, Page shows, is an inevitable product of group living, because individual bees vary genetically and physiologically in their sensitivities to stimuli and have different probabilities of encountering and responding to them. A fascinating window into self-organising regulatory networks of honey bees, this book applies genomics, evolution, and behaviour to elucidate the details of social structure and advance our understanding of complex adaptive systems in nature.

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