Socio-biology throws surprises at us, asking us to be appreciative of many other animals and even insects like the honeybee and the cockroach.We have just gone through a series of successful elections in several states of India. This has once again shown to the world, and particularly to our own ruling politicians, that we take democracy seriously, and believe in consensus-based decisions. And all of us are delighted that the people of several countries in the Arab world (and Myanmar too) have the opportunity to vote and practice democracy.Is democracy a human invention, thought out by homo sapiens and practiced by us? What do other social animals do? Are there social practices in animal societies that have an evolutionary origin, handed down to us? The field of socio-biology throws not only surprises at us but also teaches us some lessons, asking us to be humble and appreciative of many other animals and even insects like the honeybee we admire and the cockroach we detest.Professor Raghavendra Gadagkar of the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore is a well known ???eusociologist??? who specializes in insect group behaviour of wasps and bees. He recently described to us how a colony of wasps or bees organizes itself and optimises resources. He points out that while the colony has a queen, workers and drones, this is no monarchy. The queen does not proclaim what the colony should do. (We call her the queen, rather anthropomorphically, since all she does is sit around and lay eggs, and is pampered by a retinue of ???assistants’).She too is just a worker, a special type of worker whose job is just to keep on laying eggs. There are no palace intrigues, and she too can be, and is, overthrown or displaced by another ???egg laying machine’. When the colony is divided into two, the second queen-less part makes its own queen.The ???queen??? is of course more important than the average worker, but she is not a dictator whose order the colony must obey. It is a group activi
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