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Keywords:

  • Cardiocondyla;
  • longevity;
  • monogyny;
  • mortality;
  • polygyny;
  • queen number

Abstract

Evolutionary theories of ageing predict that life span increases with decreasing extrinsic mortality, and life span variation among queens in ant species seems to corroborate this prediction: queens, which are the only reproductive in a colony, live much longer than queens in multi-queen colonies. The latter often inhabit ephemeral nest sites and accordingly are assumed to experience a higher mortality risk. Yet, all prior studies compared queens from different single- and multi-queen species. Here, we demonstrate an effect of queen number on longevity and fecundity within a single, socially plastic species, where queens experience the similar level of extrinsic mortality. Queens from single- and two-queen colonies had significantly longer lifespan and higher fecundity than queens living in associations of eight queens. As queens also differ neither in morphology nor the mode of colony foundation, our study shows that the social environment itself strongly affects ageing rate.