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Welcome to my website

This is my personal website - mainly about research but also including some other interests; you can find my UEA webpages here.



COSTS OF REPRODUCTION IN EUSOCIAL INSECT QUEENS: In a recent paper in BMC Biology, we tested whether queens in annual eusocial insects like the bumble bee Bombus terrestris experience costs of reproduction. We experimentally increased queens’ costs of reproduction by removing their eggs, which caused queens to increase their egg-laying rate. Treatment queens lived significantly shorter lives than control queens whose egg-laying rate was not increased. In addition, treatment and control queens differed in age-related gene expression in both their overall expression profiles and the expression of ageing-related genes. These findings suggest that costs of reproduction are present but latent, i.e. that positive fecundity-longevity associations in queens of B. terrestris and similar species are condition-dependent. They also raised the possibility that a partial remodelling of genetic and endocrine networks underpinning ageing may have occurred in B. terrestris such that, in unmanipulated conditions, age-related gene expression depends more on chronological than relative age.

The paper is: Collins DH, Prince DC, Donelan JL, Chapman T, Bourke AFG (2023) Costs of reproduction are present but latent in eusocial bumblebee queens. BMC Biology 21: 153.


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UNUSUAL GASTROPOD FOSSIL FROM THE UK CHALK:  As well as conducting research, I enjoy pursuing interests in all kinds of natural history, including bird watching, observing and recording insects (see here), rock-pooling, appreciating wild flowers and fossil collecting. We are lucky to have, nearby on the Norfolk coast, several sites that are well known for their Cretaceous (Chalk) and/or Pleistocene fossils (e.g. see herehere and here). While on a family fossil hunt on the beach at Overstrand (north-east Norfolk) a couple of years ago, one of my sons found a large gastropod preserved as an internal mould in Chalk (see left). The fossil turned out to be, unusually for the UK, a large Pleurotomariid from the Lower Maastrichtian stage of the Chalk (late Cretaceous). With the kind help of palaeontology and earth sciences professionals, including UEA colleagues Julian Andrews and Alina Marca of the School of Environmental Sciences, we recently published a short note about this find in Bulletin of the Geological Society of Norfolk.


For full details, see our note: Bourke WJ, Marca A, Andrews JE, Bourke AFG (2020) Scientific note on a large gastropod (Pleurotomariidae) from Upper Cretaceous Chalk at Overstrand, Norfolk, UK. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Norfolk 70: 67-71; available from the Geological Society of Norfolk here.


CONFLICT OVER RESOURCE INHERITANCE:  In this paper in American Naturalist, we developed a model of queen-worker conflict over nest inheritance and tested it in the bumble bee Bombus terrestris. As the model predicted, we showed that workers harass queens with simulated fecundity loss and that aggressive workers are more likely to become egg-layers. This is consistent with workers monitoring queen fecundity to weigh up the relative benefits of reproducing in the nest after the queen's death versus continuing to keep the queen alive as a source of siblings. These findings provide new support for kin-selected conflict over resource inheritance being a key process in social animals.


The paper is: Almond EJ, Huggins TJ, Crowther LP, Parker JD, Bourke AFG (2019) Queen longevity and fecundity affect conflict with workers over resource inheritance in a social insect. American Naturalist 193: 256-266.

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