Back to one: consequences of derived monogyny in an ant with polygynous ancestors


Alexandra Schrempf, Lehrstuhl Biologie I, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstraße 31, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany.
Tel.: +49-941-9433293; fax: +49-941-9433304;


The number of queens per colony is of fundamental importance in the life history of social insects. Multiple queening (polygyny), with dependent colony founding by budding, has repeatedly evolved from ancestral single queening (monogyny) and independent founding by solitary queens in waSPS, bees and ants. By contrast, the reversal to monogyny appears to be rare, as polygynous queens often lack morphological adaptations necessary for dispersal and independent colony founding. In the ant genus Cardiocondyla, monogynous species evolved from polygynous ancestors. Here, we show that queens of monogynous species found their colonies independently, albeit in an unusual way: they mate in the maternal nest, disperse on foot and forage during the founding phase. This reversal appears to be associated with the occurrence of a wing polymorphism, which reflects a trade-off between reproduction and dispersal. Moreover, queens of monogynous species live considerably longer than queens in related polygynous taxa, suggesting that queen life span is a plastic trait.