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Journal Articles Systematic Biology Year : 2018

When Darwin’s Special Difficulty Promotes Diversification in Insects


Eusociality, Darwin’s special difficulty, has been widely investigated but remains a topic of great debate in organismal biology. Eusocial species challenge existing theories, and the impact of highly integrated societies on diversification dynamics is controversial with opposing assertions and hypotheses in the literature. Here, using phylogenetic approaches in termites—the first group that has evolved eusociality—we assessed the fundamental prediction that eusocial lineages have higher diversification rates than non-eusocial clades. We found multiple lines of evidence that eusociality provided higher diversification as compared to non-eusociality. This is particularly exacerbated for eusocial species with “true” workers as compared to species with “false” workers. Because most species with “true” workers have an entirely prokaryotic microbiota, the latter feature is also related to higher diversification rates, but it should be investigated further, notably in relation to angiosperm diversification. Overall, this study suggests that societies with “true” workers are not only more successful at ecological timescales but also over millions of years, which further implies that both organism- and species-level traits act on species selection.
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mnhn-02170200 , version 1 (01-07-2019)



Frédéric Legendre, Fabien Condamine. When Darwin’s Special Difficulty Promotes Diversification in Insects. Systematic Biology, 2018, 67 (5), pp.873-887. ⟨10.1093/sysbio/syy014⟩. ⟨mnhn-02170200⟩
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