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Mol Ecol. 2011 May;20(9):2011-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05075.x. Epub 2011 Mar 30.

Variation in patriline reproductive success during queen production in orphaned colonies of the thelytokous ant Cataglyphis cursor.

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Laboratoire Écologie and Évolution CNRS UMR 7625, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris 6, France.


In genetically diverse insect societies (polygynous or polyandrous queens), the production of new queens can set the ground for competition among lineages. This competition can be very intense when workers can reproduce using thelytoky as worker lineages that manage to produce new queens gain a huge benefit. Selection at the individual level might then lead to the evolution of cheating genotypes, i.e. genotypes that reproduce more than their fair share. We studied the variation in reproductive success among worker patrilines in the thelytokous and highly polyandrous ant Cataglyphis cursor. Workers produce new queens by thelytoky in orphaned colonies. The reproductive success of each patriline was assessed in 13 orphaned colonies using genetic analysis of 433 workers and 326 worker-produced queens. Our results show that patrilines contributed unequally to queen production in half of the colonies, and the success of patrilines was function of their frequencies in workers. However, over all colonies, we observed a significant difference in the distribution of patrilines between workers and worker-produced queens, and this difference was significant in three of 13 colonies. In addition, six colonies contained a low percentage of foreign workers (drifters), and in one colony, they produced a disproportionably high number of queens. Hence, we found some evidence for the occurrence of rare cheating genotypes. Nevertheless, cheating appears to be less pronounced than in the Cape Honey bee, a species with a similar reproductive system. We argue that worker reproduction by parthenogenesis might not be common in natural populations of C. cursor.

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