Outbreeding and lack of temporal genetic structure in a drone congregation of the neotropical stingless bee Scaptotrigona mexicana

Authors

  • Matthias Y. Mueller,

    1. Institute for Biology, Molecular Ecology Work Group, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Hoher Weg 4, 06122 Halle(Saale), Germany
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  • Robin F.A. Moritz,

    1. Institute for Biology, Molecular Ecology Work Group, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Hoher Weg 4, 06122 Halle(Saale), Germany
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  • F. Bernhard Kraus

    1. Institute for Biology, Molecular Ecology Work Group, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Hoher Weg 4, 06122 Halle(Saale), Germany
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Matthias Y. Mueller, Institut für Biologie, Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Hoher Weg 4, 06099 Halle (Saale). Tel: +49 345 5526398; Fax: +49 345 552726; E-mail: matthias.mueller@zoologie.uni-halle.de

Abstract

Drone aggregations are a widespread phenomenon in many stingless bee species (Meliponini), but the ultimate and proximate causes for their formation are still not well understood. One adaptive explanation for this phenomenon is the avoidance of inbreeding, which is especially detrimental for stingless bees due to the combined effects of the complementary sex-determining system and the small effective population size caused by eusociality and monandry. We analyzed the temporal genetic dynamics of a drone aggregation of the stingless bee Scaptotrigona mexicana with microsatellite markers over a time window of four weeks. We estimated the drones of the aggregation to originate from a total of 55 colonies using sibship re-construction. There was no detectable temporal genetic differentiation or sub-structuring in the aggregation. Most important, we could exclude all colonies in close proximity of the aggregation as origin of the drones in the aggregation, implicating that they originate from more distant colonies. We conclude that the diverse genetic composition and the distant origin of the drones of the S. mexicana drone congregation provides an effective mechanism to avoid mating among close relatives.

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