Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 10, pp 1563–1573

Regional variation in queen and worker aggression in incipient colonies of the desert ant Messor pergandei

  • Ken R. Helms
  • Nathaniel J. Newman
  • Sara Helms Cahan
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-013-1568-8

Cite this article as:
Helms, K.R., Newman, N.J. & Helms Cahan, S. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2013) 67: 1563. doi:10.1007/s00265-013-1568-8

Abstract

The fate of queen foundress associations in ants varies across taxa: in some, lethal fighting results in survival of a single queen, while in others, queens coexist long term. One hypothesis for this difference is that selection favors fighting when group sizes are small and tolerance when groups are large. In an experiment with the ant Messor pergandei, we formed small, medium, and large groups with newly mated queens from field populations that have different mean group sizes and differ in whether multiple queens occur in older established colonies. We found that whether queens are eliminated by fighting depends upon region of origin and not group size: regardless of co-foundress number, queens from sites with single-queen adult field colonies displayed agonistic behaviors and their colonies reduced to a single queen, while queens from sites with multiple-queen colonies did not fight and co-foundresses coexisted long term. Worker aggression towards and elimination of queens were also correlated with region of origin. Where fighting occurred, queens were as likely to be killed by workers as by other queens. An aggressive display was the most common form of agonistic interaction among queens, while fighting was relatively rare. We hypothesize that queen displays evolved in response to worker attacks because they increase the probability that workers will eliminate competitor queens. Our results suggest that the evolutionary interests of workers, as well as queens, could be important in determining the evolution and maintenance of queen elimination in foundress associations.

Keywords

Ants Colony foundation Conflict Cooperation Group size Lethal fighting 

Supplementary material

265_2013_1568_MOESM1_ESM.docx (30 kb)
Online Resource 1(DOCX 30 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ken R. Helms
    • 1
  • Nathaniel J. Newman
    • 1
  • Sara Helms Cahan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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