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Insects are divided into two groups depending on the structure of their lives. The two groups are specialized and non specialized insects. Specialized insects are further grouped into castes according to the gender and the differences in their social activities. The social castes in some specialized insect castes are further segmented into workers, soldiers and other subsets.
Benefits of having specialized castes within a species as opposed to no caste specialization
Castes are usually groupings within a certain species of insects where the insects within the various groupings behave differently and have different morphology. Specialized insects exhibit a sort of division of roles to be played by each group of insects in a species. A good example of specialization into castes is the case with bees where there is the queen bee whose function is reproduction, and the workers whose duty is to look for food and are usually females. The male bee's main duty is mating and is known as the drone and helps in reproduction. Bees do not exhibit much morphological differences between castes as is the case with many other specialized insects such as ants. In many insect colonies such as bees and termites, there exists only a single queen and thousands of members of other individual castes.
In many of the insect colonies, formation of castes is through evolution. A queen may develop from the workers into an egg layer. The evolution, across many species of insects is related to the population size of the colony. Since some of the castes such as workers do not reproduce, they are supposed to become extinct after sometime. This is usually not the case since the insects which are not involved in reproduction pass on their genes through caring for their sisters and thus their genes are propagated through generations.
In fact through caring for their sisters the workers pass on a greater percentage of their genes to their sisters than they would have passed to their off springs. Individuals within a group dedicate their efforts into developing the group and this leads into a super organization within a group. Organization into groups within a species of organisms has various advantages in that it helps the organisms to face the various challenges that they may encounter in their environment. These challenges include a change in the environment which may affect the workers but may not affect the queen and the drones and thus there exists a buffering capacity in the group which ensures the continued existence of the organisms.
In no caste specialization the insect species do not display any specialized behavior and neither do they have any differences in morphology within a species. There is no breakdown of duties among insects and insects work together to accomplish the work. Each insect within a species feeds itself and the relationship in the colonies is not all that strong. All the insects in the colonies are involved in reproduction and passage of genes through generations is through offsprings. In these kinds of insects there are no genotypic and morphological differences within a species.
The interrelatedness of the insects in the species means that their resistance to environmental changes is almost the same and thus any change in their environment will have a far reaching effect. Also diseases and pathogens can be easily spread within a species as opposed to the case of specialized insects. Extinction in these types of insects can easily occur since a factor that affects the work rate of the insect will consequently affect the feeding and eventually will inhibit the reproductive capacity of the insects.
In conclusion specialization within castes is more advantageous as opposed to non specialization in that it helps insects to divide roles among themselves and hence help them in coping with environmental challenges as well as diseases. This helps them in survival as well as propagation of their generations by leading a well organized life in their colonies. It is very difficult for a disease or a change in the environment to wipe out a whole colony of insects due to the various morphological and genotypic variations within species.