Ant parasite queens revert to mating singly

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Seirian Sumner, William Owen Hamar Hughes, Jes Søe Pedersen, Jacobus Jan Boomsma

A parasitic ant has abandoned the multiple mating habit of the queens of its related host.

Multiple mating (polyandry) is widespread among animal groups, particularly insects1. But the factors that maintain it and underlie its evolution are hard to verify because benefits and costs are not easily quantified and they tend to be similar in related species. Here we compare the mating strategies of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior and its recently derived social parasite Acromyrmex insinuator, which is also its closest relative2 (see Fig. 1). We find that although the host queens mate with up to a dozen different males, the social parasite mates only singly. This rapid and surprising reversion to single mating in a socially parasitic ant indicates that the costs of polyandry are probably specific to a free-living lifestyle.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature
Volume428
Issue number6978
Pages (from-to)35-36
ISSN0028-0836
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

ID: 106025