, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 79-86

Inbreeding in a lek-mating ant species, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis

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In this paper we have two goals. First, we examine the effects of sample size on the statistical power to detect a given amount of inbreeding in social insect populations. The statistical power to detect a given level of inbreeding is largely a function of the number of colonies sampled. We explore two sampling schemes, one in which a single individual per colony is sampled for different sample sizes and a second sampling scheme in which constant sampling effort is maintained (the product of the number of colonies and the number of workers per colony is constant). We find that adding additional workers to a sample from a colony makes it easier to detect inbreeding in samples from given number of colonies; however, adding more colonies rather than more workers per colony always gives greater power to detect inbreeding. Because even relatively large amounts of sib-mating generate relatively small inbreeding coefficients, detection of even substantial deviations from random mating will require very large samples. Second, we look at the amount of inbreeding in a large population of the western harvest ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. We find deviations from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium equivalent to approximately 27% sib-mating in our population ( f = 0.09). Review of past studies on the population structure of other Pogonomyrmex species suggests that inbreeding may be a regular feature of the mating system of these ants. Although P. occidentalisis a swarm-mating species, there are a number of features of its population biology which suggest that the effective population size may be small. These include topographical variation that potentially breaks the population into demes, variation in the reproductive output of colonies, and variation in the size of reproductives produced by colonies.

Received: 6 May 1996 / Accepted after revision: 6 October 1996