, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 139-145

Genetic differentiation in sympatric wood ants, Formica rufa and F. polyctena

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Direct observations have suggested that the closely related wood ants Formica polyctena and F. rufa represent different social organizations, with high queen number in F. polyctena and a high frequency of monogynous nests in F. rufa. We examined social organization and genetic population structure in a setup where populations of the two species are sympatric and gene flow between the species is possible. Our aim was to compare social organization in the species, and study evolutionary relationships between them. The observed relatedness among colony workers suggested that the difference in the level of polygyny is quantitative rather than qualitative, with a higher queen number in F. polyctena. The observed difference in polygyny was not accompanied by a difference in spatial genetic differentiation which was weak in both species. The genetic distance between the species is consistent with limited interspecific gene flow. Identification of a few possible F. rufa migrants in F. polyctena populations suggests potential interspecific gene flow. Thus, reproductive isolation of the species may not be complete when they are sympatric.