Resource sharing leads to the emergence of division of labour

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Individuals of social organisms often exhibit behavioural specialisation, leading to division of labour within groups. Yet, how division of labour can emerge in the absence of pre-existing interindividual differences is poorly understood. By means of a simple but realistic individual-based model, we show that in a group of initially identical individuals, division of labour spontaneously emerges if returning foragers share part of their resources with other group members. In the absence of resource sharing, individuals follow a ‘behavioural schedule’ of alternating between foraging and other tasks. If, however, non-foraging individuals are fed by other individuals, this alternating schedule becomes interrupted, delaying the onset of foraging and eventually leading to the emergence of division of labour. Accordingly, behavioural specialisation and division of labour emerge only due to resource sharing and in the absence of pre-existing individual differences. Division of labour is strongly reinforced by any nutritional asymmetries, such as increased metabolic rates associated with foraging, or by nutrition-based dominance interactions during resource sharing. Overall, our model proposes resource sharing as a plausible mechanism for the self-organised emergence of division of labour. We discuss how this mechanism could have played a role in the evolution of eusociality and multicellularity.
Event titleEuropean Conference on Behavioural Biology 2022: All of life is social!
Event typeConference
LocationGroningen, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational