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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Oct 28;100(22):12836-40. Epub 2003 Oct 13.

Worker policing without genetic conflicts in a clonal ant.

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  • 1Department of Biology I, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstrasse 31, 93040 Regensburg, Germany.


In group-living animals, mutual policing to suppress reproduction is an important mechanism in the resolution of conflict between selfish group members and the group as a whole. In societies of bees, ants, and wasps, policing against the production of males by other workers is expected when egg laying by workers decreases the average inclusive fitness of individual group members. This may result (i) from the relatedness of workers being lower to worker than to queen-derived males or (ii) from a lowered overall colony efficiency. Whereas good evidence exists for policing behavior caused by genetic conflicts, policing caused by efficiency factors has not been demonstrated. We investigated the regulation of reproduction in the ant Platythyrea punctata, a species in which colonies are clones because workers are capable of producing female offspring by thelytokous parthenogenesis. Reproductive conflicts resulting from differences in genetic relatedness are therefore not expected, but uncontrolled reproduction by all workers could lead to the destruction of sociality. Here we show that worker policing by aggressive attacks against additionally reproducing workers keeps the number of reproducing workers low. Furthermore, through experimental manipulation of the number of brood items per colony, we show that worker policing can enhance group efficiency.

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