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Keywords:

  • Cardiocondyla;
  • multiple mating;
  • colony genetic structure;
  • ergatoid males;
  • inbreeding;
  • intranidal mating

Abstract

Cardiocondyla elegans is a Mediterranean ant that nests on river banks. It rears only wingless (ergatoid) males that live peacefully in the same nest as opposed to other species of the same genus, which have both peaceful, winged and mutually aggressive ‘ergatoid’ males. Using microsatellite analysis, we investigated the genetic structure of 21 colonies from three different locations as well as the parentage of sexuals of two colonies of C. elegans. We show that C. elegans is strictly monogynous, and that its nests can contain foreign sexuals. The presence of alien sexuals inside ant nests is described for the first time and probably counteracts inbreeding resulting from matings between siblings. In the laboratory, aggression tests showed that workers only allow alien males to enter their nests, while all winged female sexuals attempting to enter were attacked. Nevertheless, the presence of alien female sexuals in nests in the field seems to result from active carrying behaviour by workers during the reproductive period.