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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jul 22;100(15):8799-804. Epub 2003 Jul 1.

Informational constraints on optimal sex allocation in ants.

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  • 1Department of Population Ecology, Zoological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.


Workers of the ant Formica truncorum specialize in rearing females or males depending on the number of fathers of a colony. These split sex ratios increase inclusive fitness, but it has remained unknown how workers assess the number of patrilines in their colonies and to what extent their reproductive decisions are constrained by lack of information. By analysis of the quantitative variation in cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of workers of multiply mated queens, we show that the heritable component of recognition cues is low and that the extent of sex ratio biasing toward males is correlated with patriline differences in hydrocarbon profiles. Workers are thus able to capitalize on colony-level relatedness asymmetry, but their inclusive fitness is constrained by uninformative recognition cues. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the occasional expression of nepotistic phenotypes favoring full-sisters over half-sisters maintains selection against informative recognition cues. We evaluate how inclusive fitness theory may be used to predict the number and kind of recognition cues in insect societies of a specific relatedness structure.

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