Research article

Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 155-162

First online:

Facultative sexual reproduction in the parthenogenetic ant Platythyrea punctata

  • A. HartmannAffiliated withDepartment of Biology I, Universität Regensburg Email author 
  • , J. WantiaAffiliated withDepartment of Biology I, Universität RegensburgDepartment of Information Technology, University of Zürich
  • , J. HeinzeAffiliated withDepartment of Biology I, Universität Regensburg

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Summary.

In a few, scattered species of social Hymenoptera, unmated workers are capable of producing female offspring from unfertilized eggs through thelytokous parthenogenesis. Regular thelytoky has previously been demonstrated in a number of populations of the neotropical ant Platythyrea punctata. Nevertheless, the finding of males and inseminated queens and workers suggested the sporadic occurrence of sex. In this study we investigated the genetic structure of colonies from Puerto Rico and Costa Rica in order to detect traces of occasional sexual reproduction. Most Puerto Rican colonies had a clonal structure with all nestmates sharing the same multilocus genotype, indicating that thelytoky is the predominant mode of reproduction. Genetic variability was detected in six of 18 colonies and might have arisen from adoption of alien workers in one colony and from the adoption of alien workers, recombination during parthenogenesis, or sexual reproduction in the other colonies. The reproductive of one of these latter colonies was found to be an inseminated worker (gamergate), and the genotypes of its nestmates definitively suggested recombination and sexual reproduction. Three gamergates were found in a single colony collected in Costa Rica, and all produced offspring from fertilized eggs, while uninseminated workers were apparently incapable of reproducing by thelytoky.

Key words.

Platythyrea thelytoky facultative parthenogenesis population structure gamergate