SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Understanding the determinants of reproductive skew (the partitioning of reproduction among co-breeding individuals) is one of the major questions in social evolution. In ants, multiple-queen nests are common and reproductive skew among queens has been shown to vary tremendously both within and between species. Proximate determinants of skew may be related to both queen and worker behaviour. Queens may attempt to change their reproductive share through dominance interactions, egg eating and by changing individual fecundity. Conversely, workers are in a position to regulate the reproductive output of queens when rearing the brood. This paper investigates queen behaviour at the onset of egg laying and the effect of queen fecundity and worker behaviour on brood development and reproductive shares of multiple queens in the ant Formica fusca. The study was conducted in two-queen laboratory colonies where the queens produced only worker offspring. The results show that in this species reproductive apportionment among queens is not based on dominance behaviour and aggression, but rather on differences in queen fecundity. We also show that, although the queen fecundity at the onset of brood rearing is a good indicator of her final reproductive output, changes in brood composition occur during brood development. Our results highlight the importance of queen fecundity as a major determinant of her reproductive success. They furthermore suggest that in highly derived polygyne species, such as the Formica ants, direct interactions as a means for gaining reproductive dominance have lost their importance.