Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 10, pp 1655–1663 | Cite as

Reproductive conflicts and egg discrimination in a socially polymorphic ant

Original Paper

Abstract

The ability to discriminate against competitors shapes cooperation and conflicts in all forms of social life. In insect societies, workers may detect and destroy eggs laid by other workers or by foreign queens, which can contribute to regulate reproductive conflicts among workers and queens. Variation in colony kin structure affects the magnitude of these conflicts and the diversity of cues used for discrimination, but the impact of the number of queens per colony on the ability of workers to discriminate between eggs of diverse origin has so far not been investigated. Here, we examined whether workers from the socially polymorphic ant Formica selysi distinguished eggs laid by nestmate workers from eggs laid by nestmate queens, as well as eggs laid by foreign queens from eggs laid by nestmate queens. Workers from single- and multiple-queen colonies discriminated worker-laid from queen-laid eggs, and eliminated the former. This suggests that workers collectively police each other in order to limit the colony-level costs of worker reproduction and not because of relatedness differences towards queens’ and workers’ sons. Workers from single-queen colonies discriminated eggs laid by foreign queens of the same social structure from eggs laid by nestmate queens. In contrast, workers from multiple-queen colonies did not make this distinction, possibly because cues on workers or eggs are more diverse. Overall, these data indicate that the ability of F. selysi workers to discriminate eggs is sufficient to restrain worker reproduction but does not permit discrimination between matrilines in multiple-queen colonies.

Keywords

Worker policing Nestmate recognition Social insect Ants Hymenoptera Formica selysi 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Jessica Purcell, Michiel B. Dijkstra, Christophe Eizaguirre, Serge Aron, Lotta Sundström, and one anonymous referee for constructive comments on previous versions of this manuscript. This study was supported by grants 31003A-108263 and 31003A-125306 from the Swiss National Science Foundation. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. This research was done in compliance with current Swiss laws and regulations.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joël Meunier
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luma Delaplace
    • 1
  • Michel Chapuisat
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biophore, Unil-SorgeUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Zoological Institute, Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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