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Keywords:

  • diploid males;
  • homozygosity;
  • inbreeding;
  • insects;
  • reproductive allocation ratio;
  • social evolution

Abstract

Inbreeding can lead to the expression of deleterious recessive alleles and to a subsequent fitness reduction. In Hymenoptera, deleterious alleles are purged in haploid males moderating inbreeding costs. However, in these haplodiploid species, inbreeding can result in the production of sterile diploid males. We investigated the effects of inbreeding on the individual and colony level in field colonies of the highly inbred ant Hypoponera opacior. In this species, outbreeding winged sexuals and nest-mating wingless sexuals mate during two separate reproductive periods. We show that regular sib-matings lead to high levels of homozygosity and the occasional production of diploid males, which sporadically sire triploid offspring. On the individual level, inbreeding was associated with an increased body size in workers. On the colony level, we found no evidence for inbreeding depression as productivity was unaffected by the level of homozygosity. Instead, inbred colonies altered their allocation strategies by investing more resources into sexuals than into workers. This shift towards sexual production was due to an increased investment in both males and queens, which was particularly pronounced in the dispersive generation. The absence of inbreeding depression combined with increased reproductive investment, especially in outbreeding sexuals, suggests that these ants have evolved active strategies to regulate the extent and effects of frequent inbreeding.