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Keywords:

  • ants;
  • gene flow;
  • internal transcribed spacers;
  • microsatellites;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • morphometrics;
  • Myrmica microrubra;
  • probability analysis;
  • queen size dimorphism;
  • sympatric speciation

Abstract

No aspect of speciation is as controversial as the view that new species can evolve sympatrically, among populations in close physical contact. Social parasitism has been suggested to yield necessary disruptive selection for sympatric speciation. Recently, mitochondrial DNA phylogeography has shown that the ant Myrmica microrubra is closely related to its host, Myrmica rubra, leading to the suggestion that sympatric speciation has occurred. We investigated the relationships between the two ant forms using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences, microsatellite genotyping and morphometrics. Molecular phylogenetic and population structure analyses showed that M. microrubra does not evolve separately to its host but rather shares a gene pool with it. Probability analysis showed that mitochondrial DNA data previously adduced in favour of sympatric speciation do not in fact do so. Morphometrically, M. microrubra is most readily interpreted as a miniature queen form of M. rubra, not a separate species. Myrmica microrubra is not an example of speciation. The large (typical M. rubra) and small (M. microrubra) queen forms are alternative reproductive strategies of the same species. Myrmica microrubraSeifert 1993 is consequently synonymized here with M. rubra Linnaeus, 1758.