caste system


[kast, kahst]

In biology, a subset of individuals within a colony of social animals (chiefly ants, bees, termites, and wasps) that has a specialized function and is distinguished from other subsets by morphological and anatomical differences. Typical insect castes are the queen (the female responsible for reproduction), workers (the usually sterile female caretakers of the queen, eggs, and larvae), soldiers (defenders of the colony; also sterile females), and sometimes drones (short-lived males). The differentiation of larvae into various castes is often determined by diet, though hormonal and environmental factors can also play a role.

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