Similar Performance of Diploid and Haploid Males in an Ant Species without Inbreeding Avoidance



Ilka M. Kureck, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Institute of Zoology, Evolutionary Biology Group, Johannes-von-Müller Weg 6, 55128 Mainz, Germany.



Under haplodiploidy, a characteristic trait of all Hymenoptera, females develop from fertilised eggs, and males from unfertilised ones. Males are therefore typically haploid. Yet, inbreeding can lead to the production of diploid males that often fail in development, are sterile or are of lower fertility. In most Hymenoptera, inbreeding is avoided by dispersal flights of one or both sexes, leading to low diploid male loads. We investigated causes for the production of diploid males and their performance in a highly inbred social Hymenopteran species. In the ant Hypoponera opacior, inbreeding occurs between wingless sexuals, which mate within the mother nest, whereas winged sexuals outbreed during mating flights earlier in the season. Wingless males mate with queen pupae and guard their mating partners. We found that they mated randomly with respect to relatedness, indicating that males do not avoid mating with close kin. These frequent sib-matings lead to the production of diploid males, which are able to sire sterile triploid offspring. We compared mating activity and lifespan of haploid and diploid wingless males. As sexual selection acts on the time of emergence and body size in this species, we also investigated these traits. Diploid males resembled haploid ones in all investigated traits. Hence, albeit diploid males cannot produce fertile offspring, they keep up with haploid males in their lifetime mating success. Moreover, by fathering viable triploid workers, they contribute to the colonies' work force. In conclusion, the lack of inbreeding avoidance led to frequent sib-matings of wingless sexuals, which in turn resulted in the regular production of diploid males. However, in contrast to many other Hymenopteran species, diploid males exhibit normal sexual behaviour and sire viable, albeit sterile daughters.