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Naturwissenschaften. 2014 Mar;101(3):261-4. doi: 10.1007/s00114-014-1149-3. Epub 2014 Jan 26.

Monogamy in large bee societies: a stingless paradox.

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Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade de São Paulo, Rua do Matão 321, 05508-090, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil,


High genetic diversity is important for the functioning of large insect societies. Across the social Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps), species with the largest colonies tend to have a high colony-level genetic diversity resulting from multiple queens (polygyny) or queens that mate with multiple males (polyandry). Here we studied the genetic structure of Trigona spinipes, a stingless bee species with colonies an order of magnitude larger than those of polyandrous honeybees. Genotypes of adult workers and pupae from 43 nests distributed across three Brazilian biomes showed that T. spinipes colonies are usually headed by one singly mated queen. Apart from revealing a notable exception from the general incidence of high genetic diversity in large insect societies, our results reinforce previous findings suggesting the absence of polyandry in stingless bees and provide evidence against the sperm limitation hypothesis for the evolution of polyandry. Stingless bee species with large colonies, such as T. spinipes, thus seem promising study models to unravel alternative mechanisms to increase genetic diversity within colonies or understand the adaptive value of low genetic diversity in large insect societies.

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