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Mating frequency and mating system of the polygynous ant, Leptothorax acervorum


Robert L. Hammond. Fax: 44-20-7586-2870; E-mail:


Multiple mating by queens (polyandry) and the occurrence of multiple queens in the same colony (polygyny) alter patterns of relatedness within societies of eusocial insects. This is predicted to influence kin-selected conflicts over reproduction. We investigated the mating system of a facultatively polygynous UK population of the ant Leptothorax acervorum using up to six microsatellite loci. We estimated mating frequency by genotyping 79 dealate (colony) queens and the contents of their sperm receptacles and by detailed genetic analysis of 11 monogynous (single-queen) and nine polygynous colonies. Results indicated that 95% of queens were singly mated and 5% of queens were doubly mated. The corrected population mean mating frequency was 1.06. Parentage analysis of adults and brood in 17 colonies (10 monogynous, 7 polygynous) showed that female offspring attributable to each of 31 queens were full sisters, confirming that queens typically mate once. Inbreeding coefficients, queen–mate relatedness of zero and the low incidence of diploid males provided evidence that L. acervorum sexuals mate entirely or almost entirely at random. Males mated to queens in the same polygynous colony were not related to one another. Our data also confirmed that polygynous colonies contain queens that are related on average and that their workers had a mixed maternity. We conclude that the mating system of L. acervorum involves queens that mate near nests with unrelated males and then seek readoption by those nests, and queens that mate in mating aggregations away from nests, also with unrelated males.

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