, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 207-213

Biased sperm use by polyandrous queens of the ant Proformica longiseta

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The occurrence and genetic effects of polyandry were studied in the ant Proformica longiseta using three microsatellite markers. The average queen mating frequency (QMF) estimated from the sperm dissected from the spermathecae of 61 queens was 2.4 with 69% of the queens being multiply mated. QMF estimated from worker offspring in a subsample of eight monogynous colonies was 3.5, but the effective paternity (m e,p) was only 1.23. The difference between these values reflected unequal sperm use by the queens. Most colonies of P. longiseta were polygynous and the average relatedness among workers was 0.35. Polyandry thus added only marginally to the genetic diversity of colonies, and our results gave little support to the genetic-variability hypothesis for explaining polyandry. Diploid male load was low, as only 1% of males were diploid. A large majority (92%) of nests produced one sex only, with males produced in colonies that had higher than average worker relatedness. This contradicted the predictions derived from worker control of sex ratios. Males produced enough sperm to fill the spermathecae of several queens. Thus, the results indicated that diploid male load, sperm limitation and sex ratio conflict are also unlikely explanations of polyandry. Plausible hypotheses for polyandry include mating by convenience, as the sex ratio is male biased and the mating costs to a female can be low because the females are wingless and have no mating flight. The observed unequal sperm use furthermore points to sperm choice and sperm competition as important factors in the evolution of polyandry.