Mating behaviour of Rhytidoponera sp. 12 ants inferred from microsatellite analysis

Authors

  • W. T. Tay,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Genetics and Evolution, La Trobe University, Bundoora 3083, Australia
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  • R. H. Crozier

    1. Department of Genetics and Evolution, La Trobe University, Bundoora 3083, Australia
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    • Present address: School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.


W. T. Tay.*Present address: Department of Biology, PO Box 3000, University of Oulu, FIN-90014 Oulu, Finland. Fax: + 358 8 553 1061; E-mail:weetek.tay@Oulu.Fi

Abstract

In the queenless ponerine ant Rhytidoponera sp. 12, all workers have a spermatheca and functional ovaries and are potentially able to mate and reproduce. Within a colony gamergates may either be full sisters to each other (Type 1 colony), or they may not be full sisters but still be significantly related to each other (Type 2 colony) due to daughter gamergates reproducing in their natal colonies after mating. Despite many studies the mating behaviour of R. sp. 12 has been poorly understood. In this study, we used microsatellite markers to investigate intracolony relatednesses of male mates to the gamergates (bmq) and between male mates (bmm), and mating frequencies and mating patterns, using gamergate DNA and sperm DNA isolated from the spermathecae of gamergates from five colonies. Average bmm and bmq estimates for all five colonies studied were not significantly different from zero, suggesting that on average, within colonies, mating males were unrelated both to each other and to the gamergates. A low frequency (3%) of multiple mating by gamergates was detected. Multiple mating by individual males with sister gamergates within Type 1 colonies was also detected at 3% and could give rise to half-sister nestmate workers. Polygamy in R. sp. 12 might indicate local female-biased operational sex ratios despite the expectation of overall male biases. Our results concur with previous reports that gamergates mate within the colony or nearby, but indicate more diversity in mating patterns than previously indicated for this polygynous ponerine ant species.

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