The study of insect social behavior has offered tremendous insight into the molecular mechanisms mediating behavioral and phenotypic plasticity. Genomic applications to the study of eusocial insect species, in particular, have led to several hypotheses for the processes underlying the molecular evolution of behavior. Advances in understanding the genetic control of social organization have also been made, suggesting an important role for supergenes in the evolution of divergent behavioral phenotypes. Intensive study of social phenotypes across species has revealed that behavior and caste are controlled by an interaction between genetic and environmentally mediated effects and, further, that gene expression and regulation mediate plastic responses to environmental signals. However, several key methodological flaws that are hindering progress in the study of insect social behavior remain. After reviewing the current state of knowledge, we outline ongoing challenges in experimental design that remain to be overcome in order to advance the field.


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