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A test of reproductive skew models in a field population of a multiple-queen ant

Hammond, R. L., Bruford, Michael William and Bourke, A. F. G. 2006. A test of reproductive skew models in a field population of a multiple-queen ant. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61 (2) , pp. 265-275. 10.1007/s00265-006-0257-2

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Determining the evolutionary basis of variation in reproductive skew (degree of sharing of reproduction among coexisting individuals) is an important task both because skew varies widely across social taxa and because testing models of skew evolution permits tests of kin selection theory. Using parentage analyses based on microsatellite markers, we measured skew among female eggs (n=32.3 eggs per colony, range=20–68) in 17 polygynous colonies from a UK field population of the ant Leptothorax acervorum. We used skew among eggs as our principal measure of skew because of the high degree of queen turnover in the study population. Queens within colonies did not make significantly unequal contributions to queen and worker adult or pupal offspring, indicating that skew among female eggs reflected skew among daughter queens. On average, both skew among female eggs (measured by the B index) and queen–queen relatedness proved to be low (means±SE=0.06±0.02 and 0.28±0.08, respectively). However, contrary to current skew models, there was no significant association of skew with either relatedness or worker number (used as a measure of productivity). In L. acervorum, predictions of the concession model of skew may hold between but not within populations because queens are unable to assess their relatedness to other queens within colonies. Additional phenomena that may help maintain low skew in the study population include indiscriminate infanticide in the form of egg cannibalism and split sex ratios that penalize reproductive monopoly by single queens within polygynous colonies.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Kin selection; Polygyny; Reproductive skew; Social evolution; Social insect
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 0340-5443
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 06:30

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