, Volume 93, Issue 8, pp 402–406 | Cite as

A reassessment of the mating system characteristics of the army ant Eciton burchellii

  • Daniel J. C. KronauerEmail author
  • Stefanie M. Berghoff
  • Scott Powell
  • A. Jay Denny
  • Keith J. Edwards
  • Nigel R. Franks
  • Jacobus J. Boomsma
Short Communication


In a recent study, Denny et al. (2004a) showed that queens of the army ant, Eciton burchellii, mate with multiple males and presented estimates suggesting that they mate with more males than queens of any other ant species so far investigated. They also inferred that data were consistent with queens being inseminated repeatedly throughout their life, which would be exceptional among the social Hymenoptera and contradictory to predictions from kin selection theory. In the present study, we reanalyze these data using new software and supplement them with similar microsatellite data from other colonies of the same species. Mating frequencies in E. burchellii are indeed very high (mean observed and effective queen-mating frequencies of 12.9 each) but considerably lower than the previous estimates. We show that the number of patrilines represented in the first worker offspring of a young queen is lower than in older queens but suggest that this may be due to initial sperm clumping in the queen’s sperm storage organ, rather than to repeated inseminations. Moreover, we found no evidence for repeated mating by genotyping sequential worker generations produced by a single old queen, showing that she did not obtain new inseminations despite ample opportunities for mating.


Mating Frequency Barro Colorado Island Young Queen Spermathecal Duct Colony Fission 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by grants from the Danish Research Training Council (DJCK), the Danish Natural Science Research Council, and the Danish National Research Foundation (JJB), the Leverhulme Trust (F/00 182/A1 to SMB, KJE and NRF), the Natural Environment Research Council (NER/S/A/2001/05997 to SP and NER/B/S/2002/00225 to AJD), and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (SRA award to SMB and Predoctoral award to SP). We also thank the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for providing facilities and arranging for ANAM collection and export permits. All research reported in this paper complies with the present laws of Denmark and the UK.


  1. Boomsma JJ, Baer B, Heinze J (2005) The evolution of male traits in social insects. Annu Rev Entomol 50:395–420PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bourke AFG, Franks NR (1995) Social evolution in ants. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  3. Chaline N, Martin SJ, Ratnieks FLW (2005) Absence of nepotism toward imprisoned young queens during swarming in the honey bee. Behav Ecol 16:403–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Denny AJ, Franks NR, Powell S, Edwards KJ (2004a) Exceptionally high levels of multiple mating in an army ant. Naturwissenschaften 91:396–399PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Denny AJ, Franks NR, Edwards KJ (2004b) Eight highly polymorphic microsatellite markers for the army ant Eciton burchellii. Mol Ecol Notes 4:234–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Franck P, Coussy H, Le Conte Y, Solignac M, Garnery L, Cornuet JM (1999) Microsatellite analysis of sperm admixture in honeybee. Insect Mol Biol 8:419–421PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Franck P, Solignac M, Vautrin D, Cornuet JM, Koeniger G, Koeniger N (2002) Sperm competition and last-male precedence in the honeybee. Anim Behav 64:503–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Franks NR (1982) A new method for censusing animal populations: the number of Eciton burchelli army ant colonies on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Oecologia 52:266–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goodnight KF, Queller DC (1998) Relatedness 5.0.4. Goodnight Software, Houston. Available at
  10. Goudet J (2002) FSTAT, a program to estimate and test gene diversities and fixation indices Institute of Ecology, University of Lausanne, Lausanne. Available at
  11. Kronauer DJC, Schöning C, Pedersen JS, Boomsma JJ, Gadau J (2004) Extreme queen-mating frequency and colony fission in African army ants. Mol Ecol 13:2381–2388PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kronauer DJC, Schöning C, Boomsma JJ (2006) Male parentage in army ants. Mol Ecol 15: 1147–1151PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kryger P, Moritz RFA (1997) Lack of kin recognition in swarming honeybees (Apis mellifera). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 40:271–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Moilanen A, Sundström L, Pedersen JS (2004) MATESOFT: a program for deducing parental genotypes and estimating mating system statistics in haplodiploid species. Mol Ecol Notes 4:795–797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Neumann P, Van Praagh J, Moritz RFA, Dustmann J (1999) Testing reliability of a potential island mating apiary using DNA microsatellites. Apidologie 30:257–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nielsen R, Tarpy DR, Reeve HK (2003) Estimating effective paternity number in social insects and the effective number of alleles in a population. Mol Ecol 12:3157–3164PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Queller DC, Goodnight KF (1989) Estimating relatedness using genetic markers. Evolution 43: 258–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Raignier A, van Boven JKA (1955) Etude taxonomique, biologique et biométrique des Dorylus du sous-genre Anomma (Hymenoptera Formicidae). Ann Mus R Congo Belg 2:1–359Google Scholar
  19. Rettenmeyer CW (1963) Behavioural studies of army ants. Univ Kans Sci Bull 44:281–465Google Scholar
  20. Schneirla TC (1971) Army ants: a study in social organization. Freeman, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  21. Strassmann J (2001) The rarity of multiple mating by females in the social Hymenoptera. Insectes Soc 48:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tarpy DR, Gilley DC, Seeley TD (2004) Levels of selection in a social insect: a review of conflict and cooperation during honey bee (Apis mellifera) queen replacement. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55:513–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Whelden RM (1963) The anatomy of the adult queen and workers of the army ants Eciton burchelli Westwood and Eciton hamatum Fabricus. J NY Entomol Soc 71:158–178Google Scholar
  24. Woyciechowski M, Kabat L, Krol E (1994) The function of the mating sign in honey-bees, Apis mellifera L—new evidence. Anim Behav 47:733–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. C. Kronauer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefanie M. Berghoff
    • 2
  • Scott Powell
    • 2
    • 3
  • A. Jay Denny
    • 2
  • Keith J. Edwards
    • 2
  • Nigel R. Franks
    • 2
  • Jacobus J. Boomsma
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Biology, Department of Population BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Instituto de BiologiaCampus Umuarama Bloco 2DUberlândiaBrasil

Personalised recommendations