Mating frequency, colony size, polyethism and sex ratio in fungus-growing ants (Attini)
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The mating frequency of queens was estimated for eight attine ant species, Myrmicocrypta ednaella, Apterostigma mayri, Cyphomyrmex costatus, C. rimosus (four lower attines), Trachymyrmex isthmicus, Serico-myrmex amabalis, Acromyrmex octospinosus and Atta colombica (four higher attines), and correlated to colony size, worker polyethism, and sex ratio. Mating frequency was calculated from within-colony relatedness estimated by CAP-PCR DNA fingerprinting. Most queens of lower attines and T. isthmicus mated with only one male, while those of the three higher attines mated with multiple males. Mating frequency was positively correlated with colony size. Polyethism among workers was dependent on worker age in lower attines but on body size in higher attines, suggesting some correlation between mating frequency (i.e., within-colony gene diversity) and caste complexity. The sex ratio was biased toward females in species where the mating frequency equaled one, but toward males in species where the mating frequency was greater than two. Changing in nest site from ground surface to deep underground may have facilitated the evolution of large colony size in Attini, and this may have resulted in the evolution of polyandry (a queen mates with multiple males). With the evolution of polyandry in higher attines, Atta and Acromyrmex in particular have generated high genetic diversity within their colonies and complex social structures.
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