Emergence of increased division of labor as a function of group size

Raphaël Jeanson, Jennifer Fewell, Root Gorelick, Susan M. Bertram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Empirical evidence suggests that division of labor in insect societies is positively related to group size both within and across taxa. Response threshold models (RTM) have been commonly used to analyze patterns of division of labor. However, these models have been explored empirically and theoretically for only a limited number of tasks, and few studies have examined predictions of the model as colony size and work availability change. We theoretically examine how group size influences division of labor using a fixed response-threshold model. We simultaneously explore how expected by-products of increased colony size, including demand (total work need relative to total work force available) and task number, affect this relationship. Our results indicate that both low demand and high task number positively influence division of labor. We suggest that these changes parallel what is observed within social groups as their size increases, and that, in part, the commonly observed increased division of labor with increasing group size is emergent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-298
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Colony size
  • Division of labor
  • Tasks number
  • Threshold model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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