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Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 89, Issue 2, pp 71–74 | Cite as

Daughters inherit colonies from mothers in the 'living-fossil' ant Nothomyrmecia macrops

  • Matthias Sanetra
  • Ross H. Crozier
Short Communication

Abstract

Newly mated queens of monogynous (single queen) ants usually found their colonies independently, without the assistance of workers. In polygynous (multiple queen) species queens are often adopted back into their natal nest and new colonies are established by budding. We report that the Australian 'living-fossil' ant, Nothomyrmecia macrops, is exceptional in that its single queen can be replaced by one of the colony's daughters. This type of colony founding is an interesting alternative reproductive strategy in monogynous ants, which maximizes fitness under kin selection. Successive queen replacement results in a series of reproductives over time (serial polygyny), making these colonies potentially immortal. Workers raise nieces and nephews (relatedness ≤ 0.375) the year after queen replacement. Although N. macrops is 'primitive' in many other respects, colony inheritance is likely to be a derived specialization resulting from ecological constraints on solitary founding.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Sanetra
    • 1
  • Ross H. Crozier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Tropical Ecology, James Cook University, Townsville 4811, QueenslandAustralia

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