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Polygyny in termites: Multiple primary queens in colonies ofNasutitermes corniger (Motschuls) (Isoptera: Termitidae)

Polygynie bei Termiten: viele Primär-Königinnen in den Kolonien derNasutitermes corniger (Isoptera: Termitidae)


The Neotropical termiteNasutitermes corniger is facultatively polygynous. In areas of young second growth in the Republic of Panamá, polygynous colonies were found commonly. Of 35 nests collected with at least one queen, 12 colonies had from 2–22 primary (first-form) queens. All females were physogastric, fully pigmented, functional egg layers. Polygynous nests had one royal cell, sometimes with multiple chambers. The queens showed no aggression toward one another under laboratory conditions. All queens within an association were of approximately the same size and weight.

It appears that polygynous colonies can be formed through budding of a parent nest and queening by several sibs from the parental colony (multiple adultoid reproductives). Formation may also be possible by cooperative co-founding of a nest by sibling queens without workers. Replacement of the original queen by more than one daughter may occur inN. corniger, but it is unlikely to be the sole method of generating polygyny in this species.

Polygynous nests may grow faster, have a higher probability of survival, and a lower age of first reproduction than monogynous neighbors. I therefore predict that polygyny will prove most common in habitats where the probability of survival is low and rapid colony growth is advantageous.


Die Neotropische TermiteNasutitermes corniger ist fakultativ polygyn. In Gebieten jungen Sekundär Waldes der früheren Kanalzone, Panama, wurden häufig polygyne Kolonien gefunden. Von 35 Nestern die zumindest eine Königen enthielten, hatten 12 Kolonien zwischen 2–22 Primär-Königinne. Alle Weibchen dieser vielfachen Vergesellschaftung waren physogastrische, voll pigmentiert und funktionelle Eierlegerinnen. Die polygynen Nester hatten eine Königinnen-Zelle mit manchmal mehreren Kammern. Unter Laborbedingungen verhielten sich die Königinnen nicht aggressiv untereinander. Alle Königinnen in einer Vergesellschaftung hatten ungefähr die gleiche Größe und Gewicht.

Es scheint, daß polygyne Kolonien durch Abspaltung des Elternnestes entstehen, und daß die vielfachen Königinnen im neuen Nest Geschwister sind. Möglicherweise können polygyne Kolonien auch durch kooperative Nestgründung zustande kommen. Die ursprüngliche Königin inN. corniger Kolonien, könnte auch durch mehrere Töchter ersetzt werden, doch ist es unwahrscheinlich, daß dies die einzige Methode ist wie es zur Polygynie bei dieser Art kommt.

Polygyne Nester wachsen wahrscheinlich schneller, haben eine größere Uberlebenschance und reproduzieren schneller als monogyne Nachbarn. Es wird angenommen, dass Polygynie besonders häufig in den Habitaten vorkommt, in denen die Uberlebenschance gering ist und wo ein schnelles Wachstum der Kolonie von Vorteil ist.

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Thorne, B.L. Polygyny in termites: Multiple primary queens in colonies ofNasutitermes corniger (Motschuls) (Isoptera: Termitidae). Ins. Soc 29, 102–117 (1982).

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  • Colony Growth
  • Sole Method
  • Polygynous Coloni
  • Parental Colony
  • Parent Nest