Mating flights select for symmetry in honeybee drones (Apis mellifera)
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- Jaffé, R. & Moritz, R.F.A. Naturwissenschaften (2010) 97: 337. doi:10.1007/s00114-009-0638-2
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Males of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) fly to specific drone congregation areas (DCAs), which virgin queens visit in order to mate. From the thousands of drones that are reared in a single colony, only very few succeed in copulating with a queen, and therefore, a strong selection is expected to act on adult drones during their mating flights. In consequence, the gathering of drones at DCAs may serve as an indirect mate selection mechanism, assuring that queens only mate with those individuals having a better flight ability and a higher responsiveness to the queen’s visual and chemical cues. Here, we tested this idea relying on wing fluctuating asymmetry (FA) as a measure of phenotypic quality. By recapturing marked drones at a natural DCA and comparing their size and FA with a control sample of drones collected at their maternal hives, we were able to detect any selection on wing size and wing FA occurring during the mating flights. Although we found no solid evidence for selection on wing size, wing FA was found to be significantly lower in the drones collected at the DCA than in those collected at the hives. Our results demonstrate the action of selection during drone mating flights for the first time, showing that developmental stability can influence the mating ability of honeybee drones. We therefore conclude that selection during honeybee drone mating flights may confer some fitness advantages to the queens.