Intergenerational genotypic interactions drive collective behavioural cycles in a social insect

Stephanie L. Jud, Daniel Knebel, Yuko Ulrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Many social animals display collective activity cycles based on synchronous behavioural oscillations across group members. A classic example is the colony cycle of army ants, where thousands of individuals undergo stereotypical biphasic behavioural cycles of about one month. Cycle phases coincide with brood developmental stages, but the regulation of this cycle is otherwise poorly understood. Here, we probe the regulation of cycle duration through interactions between brood and workers in an experimentally amenable army ant relative, the clonal raider ant. We first establish that cycle length varies across clonal lineages using long-term monitoring data. We then investigate the putative sources and impacts of this variation in a cross-fostering experiment with four lineages combining developmental, morphological and automated behavioural tracking analyses. We show that cycle length variation stems from variation in the duration of the larval developmental stage, and that this stage can be prolonged not only by the clonal lineage of brood (direct genetic effects), but also of the workers (indirect genetic effects). We find similar indirect effects of worker line on brood adult size and, conversely (but more surprisingly), indirect genetic effects of the brood on worker behaviour (walking speed and time spent in the nest).

Original languageEnglish
Article number20221273
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1986
StatePublished - 9 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

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  • clonal raider ant
  • collective behaviour
  • cross-fostering
  • cycles
  • developmental plasticity
  • social insects


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