Mating behaviour in a slave-making ant, Rossomyrmex minuchae (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)
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The mating behaviour of the ant Rossomyrmex minuchae, a rare, protected slave-making species in Spain, seems to be significantly affected by its particular life history and patchy habitat. The mating behaviour of the entire genus Rossomyrmex is virtually unknown. We present here the results of a 3-year study of mating behaviour in R. minuchae.
Behavioural observations and limited nest excavations revealed that R. minuchae does not produce sexuals every year, the number of sexuals is low, and the sex ratio tends to be female biased. Females typically exhibit two distinct activity periods. The first, the mating period, takes place in early afternoon: the ants “call” near the natal nest, mate and then return to their nest. The second, the dispersal period takes place in late afternoon: the mated females exit their nest and fly in search of a new, non-parasitized Proformica longiseta host nest. Males are highly active during the mating period, but will remain inactive in the dispersal period even if experimentally presented with virgin females. It appears that females are monogamous, while males are polygamous. When males are late arriving at the female calling site, the females will frequently congregate presumably calling in chorus.
The low reproductive efficiency exhibited by R. minuchae, coupled with the postulated low genetic variation in the population, as sisters may mate with the same male, could result in a low survival rate and risk of eventual extinction. The observed decrease in nest density we observed during the 2004 season may be indicative of such a process.
KeywordsMating Behaviour Virgin Female Multiple Mating Natal Nest Early Afternoon
The DGICYT funded this work PB94-0768 (1995-98). We thank Abraham Hefetz for helpful discussions and revision on the manuscript, and Naomi Paz for editing the English. We thank the authorities of the National Park of Sierra Nevada for granting permission to conduct our study there. This study complies with Spanish laws on wildlife conservation
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