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Proc Biol Sci. 2000 Sep 7;267(1454):1729-34.

Rank orders and division of labour among unrelated cofounding ant queens.

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  • 1Institut für Zoologie I, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


Young, unrelated queens may cooperate in colony founding (pleometrosis) in many species of ants. Whereas the founding queens of many 'advanced' species rely completely on body reserves in order to rear their first young, queens of the ponerine Pachycondyla 'inversa' forage for food. In founding associations, only one queen specializes in this risky task. Here we show that the division of labour is strongly affected by aggressive interactions between cofounding queens: the dominant remains in the nest and guards the brood, whereas the subordinate is forced to leave and forage. The frequency of queen antagonism increased with the duration since food was last added to the foraging arena. Egg-laying rates did not differ significantly between nest-mate queens, but dominant queens destroyed and ate some of the eggs laid by subordinates.

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