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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Dec 2;111(48):17212-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1412481111. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

Termite queens close the sperm gates of eggs to switch from sexual to asexual reproduction.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.
2
Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan kenjijpn@kais.kyoto-u.ac.jp.

Abstract

Males and females are in conflict over genetic transmission in the evolution of parthenogenesis, because it enhances female reproductive output but deprives the males' genetic contribution. For males, any trait that coerces females into sexual reproduction should increase their fitness. However, in the termite Reticulitermes speratus, queens produce their replacements (neotenic queens) parthenogenetically while using normal sexual reproduction to produce other colony members. Here, we show that termite queens produce parthenogenetic offspring in the presence of kings by closing the micropyles (sperm gates; i.e., openings for sperm entry) of their eggs. Our field survey showed that termite eggs show large variation in numbers of micropyles, with some having none. Microsatellite analysis showed that embryos of micropyleless eggs develop parthenogenetically, whereas those of eggs with micropyles are fertilized and develop sexually. Surveys of eggs among queens of different age groups showed that queens begin to lay micropyleless eggs when they are older and thus, need to produce their replacements parthenogenetically. In addition, we found clear seasonality in new neotenic queen differentiation and micropyleless egg production. This micropyle-dependent parthenogenesis is the first identification, to our knowledge, of the mechanism through which females control egg fertilization over time in diploid animals, implying a novel route of the evolution of parthenogenesis in favor of female interests without interference from males.

KEYWORDS:

Isoptera; asexual queen succession; egg fertilization; micropyle; thelytoky

PMID:
25404335
PMCID:
PMC4260566
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1412481111
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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