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REVIEW: Phenoptosis in Arthropods and Immortality of Social Insects

V. M. Kartsev

Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Biology, 119991 Moscow, Russia; fax: (495) 939-4309; E-mail: v-kartsev@yandex.ru

Received April 2, 2014
In general, there are no drastic differences in phenoptosis patterns in plant and animal organisms. However, there are some specific features characteristic for insects and other arthropods: 1) their development includes metamorphosis with different biochemical laws at consecutive developmental stages; 2) arthropods can reduce or stop development and aging when in a state of diapause or temporal cold immobility; 3) their life cycle often correlates with seasonal changes of surroundings; 4) polymorphism is widespread – conspecifics differ by their lifespans and phenoptosis features; 5) lifespan-related sexual dimorphism is common; 6) significant situational plasticity of life cycle organization is an important feature; for example, the German wasp (Paravespula germanica) is obligatorily univoltine in the temperate zone, while in tropical regions its lifespan increases and leads to repeated reproduction; 7) life cycles of closely related species may differ significantly, for example, in contrast to German wasp, some tropical hornets (Vespa) have only one reproduction period. Surprisingly, many insect species have been shown to be subjected to gradual aging and phenoptosis, like the highest mammals. However, queens of social insects and some long-lived arachnids can apparently be considered non-aging organisms. In some species, lifespan is limited to one season, while others live much longer or shorter. Cases of one-time reproduction are rather rare. Aphagia is common in insects (over 10,000 species). Cannibalism is an important mortality factor in insects as well as in spiders. In social insects, which exist only in colonies (families), the lifetime of a colony can be virtually unlimited. However, in case of some species the developmental cycle and death of a colony after its completion are predetermined. Most likely, natural selection in insects does not lengthen individual lifespan, but favors increase in reproduction efficiency based on fast succession of generations leading to increased evolvability.
KEY WORDS: phenoptosis, aging, arthropods, social insects, immortality

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297914100058