Normalized mutual entropy in biology: Quantifying division of labor

Root Gorelick, Susan M. Bertram, Peter R. Killeen, Jennifer Fewell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Division of labor is one of the primary adaptations of sociality and the focus of much theoretical work on self-organization. This work has been hampered by the lack of a quantitative measure of division of labor that can be applied across systems. We divide Shannon's mutual entropy by marginal entropy to quantify division of labor, rendering it robust over changes in number of individuals or tasks. Reinterpreting individuals and tasks makes this methodology applicable to a wide range of other contexts, such as breeding systems and predator-prey interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-682
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Division of labor
  • Entropy
  • Information theory
  • Task specialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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