Sexual and asexual colony foundation and the mechanism of facultative parthenogenesis in the termite Reticulitermes speratus (Isoptera, Rhinotermitidae)
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Facultative parthenogenesis has great adaptive significance, especially with regard to low pairing efficiency. In the termite Reticulitermes speratus, females that fail to mate with males reproduce parthenogenetically and found colonies cooperatively with partner females or even alone. Comparison of colony foundation success at 400 days between colonies founded by single females (F), female-female pairs (FF), and male-female pairs (FM) showed that female-female cooperation promoted colony survivorship over monogamous foundation. We report here for the first time the mode of parthenogenesis in Isoptera. Combining chromosome observations and genetic analysis using microsatellites, we show that the mode of parthenogenesis is diploid thelytoky and that the restoration of ploidy is most likely accomplished by terminal fusion. Parthenogens show a higher mortality and a longer egg-development time than sexually produced offspring, probably due to reduced heterozygosity. In addition Wolbachia bacteria were detected in R. speratus. However, since Wolbachia was also detected in non-parthenogenetic R. flavipes, it is unlikely that Wolbachia is the cause of parthenogenesis in R. speratus.
Key words.Facultative parthenogenesis automixis heterozygosity terminal fusion Wolbachia
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