Colony genetic structure in the Australian jumper ant Myrmecia pilosula
Eusocial insects vary significantly in colony queen number and mating frequency, resulting in a wide range of social structures. Detailed studies of colony genetic structure are essential to elucidate how various factors affect the relatedness and the sociogenetic organization of colonies. In this study, we investigated the colony structure of the Australian jumper ant Myrmecia pilosula using polymorphic microsatellite markers. Nestmate queens within polygynous colonies, and queens and their mates, were generally unrelated. The number of queens per colony ranged from 1 to 4. Queens were estimated to mate with 1–9 inferred and 1.0–11.4 effective mates. This is the first time that the rare co-occurrence of polygyny and high polyandry has been found in the M. pilosula species group. Significant maternity and paternity skews were detected at the population level. We also found an isolation-by-distance pattern, and together with the occurrence of polygynous polydomy, this suggests the occurrence of dependent colony foundation in M. pilosula; however, independent colony foundation may co-occur since queens of this species have fully developed wings and can fly. There is no support for the predicted negative association between polygyny and polyandry in ants.