Haplodiploidy and the evolution of eusociality: split sex ratios

Andy Gardner*, Joao Alpedrinha, Stuart A. West

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


It is generally accepted that from a theoretical perspective, haplodiploidy should facilitate the evolution of eusociality. However, the "haplodiploidy hypothesis" rests on theoretical arguments that were made before recent advances in our empirical understanding of sex allocation and the route by which eusociality evolved. Here we show that several possible promoters of the haplodiploidy effect would have been unimportant on the route to eusociality, because they involve traits that evolved only after eusociality had become established. We then focus on two biological mechanisms that could have played a role: split sex ratios as a result of either queen virginity or queen replacement. We find that these mechanisms can lead haplodiploidy to facilitating the evolution of helping but that their importance varies from appreciable to negligible, depending on the assumptions. Furthermore, under certain conditions, haplodiploidy can even inhibit the evolution of helping. In contrast, we find that the level of promiscuity has a strong and consistently negative influence on selection for helping. Consequently, from a relatedness perspective, monogamy is likely to have been a more important driver of eusociality than the haplodiploidy effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-256
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • altruism
  • helping
  • inclusive fitness
  • kin selection
  • monogamy
  • sex allocation
  • alloparental care
  • Social insects
  • Hymenoptera
  • Relatedness
  • Behavior
  • Helpers
  • Origin


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