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Evolution. 2003 Oct;57(10):2424-9.

Lay eggs, live longer: division of labor and life span in a clonal ant species.

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  • 1Lehrstuhl Biologie 1, University of Regensburg, 93059 Regensburg, Germany.


Due to a trade-off between reproduction and life span, highly fertile individuals often live shorter lives than nonreproductive conspecifics. Perennial eusocial insects are exceptional in that reproductive queens live considerably longer than the nonreproductive workers. The two female castes may differ strongly in morphology, ontogeny, physiology, diet, behavior, and mating, and all these differences could be responsible for life span differences. In the ponerine ant Platythyrea punctata, morphological and ontogenetic caste differences do not exist. Instead, all workers are capable of producing diploid offspring through thelytokous parthenogenesis, and colonies are essentially clones. Here, we show that reproductives live significantly longer than nonreproductive workers. Reproductives stay in the nest during their whole life, whereas nonreproductives switch from intranidal tasks to foraging when they get older. Different work load and different hormone titers might proximately underlie the different life span of reproductives and nonreproductives in this ant.

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