Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Gadagkar, Raghavendra
Location Indian Institute of Science
Primary Field Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Field Environmental Sciences and Ecology
 Election Citation
Gadagkar is an expert on Ropalidia marginata, a tropical wasp that can choose whether to live alone or in complex society, making it possible for us to compare the costs and benefits of social and solitary life. Gadagkar's work has provided the basis for our current understanding of social evolution.
 Research Interests
I am fascinated by the phenomena of cooperation and altruism in animals, especially in social insects such as ants, bees and wasps. I have chosen the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata that occurs abundantly in southern India to investigate these phenomena. Many years of research, in collaboration with a number of very gifted students, has uncovered many novel features of the social organisation of these wasps such as behavioural caste differentiation, pre-imaginal caste bias and the role of ecology in the evolution of social life. Our current interest is captured by the ability of the wasps to tread a fine balance between cooperation and conflict. The wasps in a colony are very similar to each other so that almost anyone can assume the role of a fertile queen or of a non-reproductive worker. While the reigning queen maintains her reproductive monopoly by means of pheromones, the workers self-organize their activities without the need for top-down control. When the queen dies, she is replaced by one of the workers in a remarkably conflict-free manner. Although we cannot predict the identity of the successor before-hand, the wasps seem to know their next queen as they organize themselves in a pre-arranged reproductive queue.

 
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