Self-organization and the evolution of division of labor

Robert E. Page, Sandra D. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Division of labor is one of the most fascinating phenomena found in social insects and is probably responsible for their tremendous ecological success. We show how major features of this division of labor may represent self-organized properties of a complex system where individuals share an information data base (a stimulus environment), make independent decisions about how to respond to the current condition of that data base (stimulus environment), and alter the data base by their actions. We argue that division of labor can emerge from such systems even without a history of natural selection, that in fact such ordered behavior is an inescapable property of group living. We then show how natural selection can operate on self-organized complex systems (social organization) and result in adaptation of division of labor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-190
Number of pages20
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Apis mellifera
  • Division of labor
  • Evolution
  • Insect societies
  • Self organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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