, Volume 157, Issue 4, pp 717-723

Foreign ant queens are accepted but produce fewer offspring

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Understanding social evolution requires us to understand the processes regulating the number of breeders within social groups and how they partition reproduction. Queens in polygynous (multiple queens per colony) ants often seek adoption in established colonies instead of founding a new colony independently. This mode of dispersal leads to potential conflicts, as kin selection theory predicts that resident workers should favour nestmate queens over foreign queens. Here we compared the survival of foreign and resident queens as well as their relative reproductive share. We used the ant Formica exsecta to construct colonies consisting of one queen with workers related to this resident queen and introduced a foreign queen. We found that the survival of foreign queens did not differ from that of resident queens over a period of 136 days. However, the genetic analyses revealed that resident queens produced a 1.5-fold higher number of offspring than introduced queens, and had an equal or higher share in 80% of the colonies. These data indicate that some discrimination can occur against dispersing individuals and that dispersal can thus have costs in terms of direct reproduction for dispersing queens.

Communicated by Roland Brandl.