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Are ant supercolonies crucibles of a new major transition in evolution?

  • P. Kennedy
  • Tobias Uller
  • H. Helantera
Publishing year: 2014
Language: English
Pages: 1784-1796
Publication/Series: Journal of evolutionary biology
Volume: 27
Issue: 9
Document type: Journal article review
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Abstract english

The biological hierarchy of genes, cells, organisms and societies is a fundamental reality in the living world. This hierarchy of entities did not arise ex nihilo at the origin of life, but rather has been serially generated by a succession of critical events known as evolutionary transitions in individuality' (ETIs). Given the sequential nature of ETIs, it is natural to look for candidates to form the next hierarchical tier. We analyse claims that these candidates are found among supercolonies', ant populations in which discrete nests cooperate as part of a wider collective, in ways redolent of cells in a multicellular organism. Examining earlier empirical work and new data within the recently proposed Darwinian space' framework, we offer a novel analysis of the evolutionary status of supercolonies and show how certain key conditions might be satisfied in any future process transforming these collaborative networks into true Darwinian individuals.


  • Biological Sciences
  • biological hierarchy
  • Darwinian space
  • individuality
  • major transitions
  • in evolution
  • supercolony


  • ISSN: 1420-9101