GENETIC COMPATIBILITY AFFECTS DIVISION OF LABOR IN THE ARGENTINE ANT LINEPITHEMA HUMILE

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Abstract

Division of labor is central to the organization of insect societies. Within-colony comparisons between subfamilies of workers (patrilines or matrilines) revealed genetic effects on division of labor in many social insect species. Although this has been taken as evidence for additive genetic effects on division of labor, it has never been experimentally tested. To determine the relative roles of additive and nonadditive genetic effects (e.g., genetic compatibility, epistasis, and parent-of-origin imprinting effects) on worker behavior, we performed controlled crosses using the Argentine ant Linepithema humile. Three of the measured behaviors (the efficiency to collect pupae, the foraging propensity, and the distance between non-brood-tenders and brood) were affected by the maternal genetic background and the two others (the efficiency to feed larvae and the distance between brood-tenders and brood) by the paternal genetic background. Moreover, there were significant interactions between the maternal and paternal genetic backgrounds for three of the five behaviors. These results are most consistent with parent-of-origin and genetic compatibility effects on division of labor. The finding of nonadditive genetic effects is in strong contrast with the current view and has important consequences for our understanding of division of labor in insect societies.

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