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Social and genetic characteristics of geographically isolated populations in the ant Formica cinerea

Authors

  • A. V. Goropashnaya,

    1. Department of Conservation Biology and Genetics, EBC, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden,
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  • P. Seppä,

    1. Department of Conservation Biology and Genetics, EBC, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden,
    2. Department of Biology, PO Box 3000, 90014 University of Oulu, Finland
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  • P. Pamilo

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Conservation Biology and Genetics, EBC, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden,
    2. Department of Biology, PO Box 3000, 90014 University of Oulu, Finland
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P. Pamilo. Department of Biology, PO Box 3000, FIN-90014 University of Oulu, Finland. Fax: + 358-8-553 1061; E-mail: pekka.pamilo@oulu.fi

Abstract

The ant Formica cinerea in northern Europe has geographically isolated populations that were examined using five microsatellite loci. The populations differ widely regarding the social organization of colonies. Based on genetic relatedness (r) among worker nest mates, the populations were classified as M type with monogynous (single queen) colonies (r > 0.59), as P type with polygynous colonial networks (r < 0.1), or as intermediate with weakly polygynous colonies (0.16 < r < 0.47). The social types showed weak geographical clustering, but the overall distribution indicated that the shift between the social types has occurred several times. The geographically isolated populations had slightly reduced levels of genetic diversity compared to populations from areas where the species is abundant and continuously distributed. Many of the isolated populations consisted of monogynous or weakly polygynous colonies, making their effective population sizes small, and some of them also showed weak bottleneck effects. The overall level of microsatellite diversity within populations was relatively high and differentiation among populations low, indicating recent connections. Isolation of populations may thus be a new phenomenon resulting from reduction of suitable habitats. At the local level, we obtained limited support from a group of nearby subpopulations in southern Finland to the hypothesis that the P type is connected to restricted dispersal. Other P type populations did not, however, show similar elevated levels of differentiation.

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