Cross-species correlation between queen mating numbers and worker ovary sizes suggests kin conflict may influence ovary size evolution in honeybees
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During social evolution, the ovary size of reproductively specialized honey bee queens has dramatically increased while their workers have evolved much smaller ovaries. However, worker division of labor and reproductive competition under queenless conditions are influenced by worker ovary size. Little comparative information on ovary size exists in the different honey bee species. Here, we report ovariole numbers of freshly dissected workers from six Apis species from two locations in Southeast Asia. The average number of worker ovarioles differs significantly among species. It is strongly correlated with the average mating number of queens, irrespective of body size. Apis dorsata, in particular, is characterized by numerous matings and very large worker ovaries. The relation between queen mating number and ovary size across the six species suggests that individual selection via reproductive competition plays a role in worker ovary size evolution. This indicates that genetic diversity, generated by multiple mating, may bear a fitness cost at the colony level.