Forskning ved Københavns Universitet - Københavns Universitet


Breeding system and reproductive skew in a highly polygynous ant population

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 Factors affecting relatedness among nest members in ant colonies with high queen number are still poorly understood. In order to identify the major determinants of nest kin structure, we conducted a detailed analysis of the breeding system of the ant Formica exsecta. We estimated the number of mature queens by mark-release-recapture in 29 nests and dissected a sub-sample of queens to assess their reproductive status. We also used microsatellites to estimate relatedness within and between all classes of nestmates (queens, their mates, worker brood, queen brood and male brood). Queen number was very high, with an arithmetic mean of 253 per nest. Most queens (90%) were reproductively active, consistent with the genetic analyses revealing that there was only a minimal reproductive skew among nestmate queens. Despite the high queen number and low reproductive skew, almost all classes of individuals were significantly related to each other. Interestingly, the number of resident queens was a poor predictor of kin structure at the nest level, consistent with the observation that new queens are produced in bursts leading to highly fluctuating queen number across years. Queen number also varied tremendously across nests, with estimates ranging from five to several hundred queens. Accordingly, the harmonic mean queen number (40.5) was six times lower than the arithmetic mean. The variation in queen number was the most important factor of the breeding system contributing to a significant relatedness between almost all classes of nestmates despite a high average number of queens per nest. Electronic supplementary material  The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00040-008-1010-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
TidsskriftInsectes Sociaux
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)347–354
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2008

ID: 9619732