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Biol Lett. 2006 Sep 22;2(3):359-63.

Clonal reproduction and genetic caste differences in a queen-polymorphic ant, Vollenhovia emeryi.

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Ecological Laboratory, Division of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa 920-1192, Japan.


Most social Hymenoptera are characterized by simple haploid sex determination and environment-based caste differentiation. This appears to be strikingly different in the queen-polymorphic ant Vollenhovia emeryi. Almost all long- and short-winged queens from a population in Central Japan were homozygous at three microsatellite loci, whereas workers were mostly heterozygous, suggesting either a complex system of genetic caste determination or, more likely, the production of female sexuals from unfertilized eggs by thelytokous parthenogenesis and of workers from fertilized eggs. Furthermore, male genotypes were not compatible with those of the queens and had exclusively the paternal allele found in the sterile, heterozygous workers, probably because males are produced from fertilized eggs after the exclusion of maternal nuclear DNA as recently reported for Wasmannia auropunctata. The genus Vollenhovia might provide an interesting model system to trace the evolution of unusual caste and sex determination systems.

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