Division of labour occurs in a broad range of organisms. Yet, how division of labour can emerge in the absence of pre-existing interindividual differences is poorly understood.
Using a simple but realistic model, we show that in a group of initially identical individuals, division of labour emerges spontaneously if returning foragers share part of their resources with other group members. In the absence of resource sharing, individuals follow an activity schedule of alternating between foraging and other tasks. If non-foraging individuals are fed by other individuals, their alternating activity schedule becomes interrupted, leading to task specialisation and the emergence of division of labour. Furthermore, nutritional differences between individuals reinforce division of labour. Such differences can be caused by increased metabolic rates during foraging or by dominance interactions during resource sharing.
Our model proposes a plausible mechanism for the self-organised emergence of division of labour in animal groups of initially identical individuals. This mechanism could also play a role for the emergence of division of labour during the major evolutionary transitions to eusociality and multicellularity.
Kreider, J.J., Janzen, T., Bernadou, A. et al.
Resource sharing is sufficient for the emergence of division of labour.
Nat Commun 13, 7232 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-35038-2