Eusocial insect queens show costs of reproduction and transcriptomic signatures of reduced longevity

David H. Collins, David C. Prince, Jenny L. Donelan, Tracey Chapman, Andrew F. G. Bourke

Research output: Working paperPreprint

Abstract / Description of output

Eusocial insect queens have been suggested to be counter-examples to the standard evolutionary theory of ageing through lacking costs of reproduction. Using the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), we tested this hypothesis experimentally against the alternative that costs of reproduction exist in eusocial insect queens, but are latent, resulting in the positive fecundity-longevity relationship typically found in unmanipulated queens. We experimentally increased queens’ costs of reproduction by removing their eggs, which causes queens to increase their egg-laying rate. Treatment queens had significantly reduced longevity relative to control queens whose egg-laying rate was not increased. In addition, treatment and control queens differed in age-related gene expression based on mRNA-seq in both their overall expression profiles and the expression of ageing-related genes. Remarkably, this occurred principally with respect to relative age, not chronological age. These results provide the first simultaneously phenotypic and transcriptomic experimental evidence of costs of reproduction in queens of eusocial insects and suggest how the genetic pathways underpinning ageing might become remodelled during eusocial evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2022


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