The phenology of a Neotropical ant assemblage: evidence for continuous and overlapping reproduction
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Reproductive phenologies reflect the interaction between the mating system of a taxon and the local environment. Ant colonies reproduce and disperse via the flights of winged alates. Few data exist on the reproductive phenologies of ant assemblages. Here we analyze the reproductive phenologies of 81 common ant species from 23,182 individuals collected over 3 years on Barro Colorado Island, Panama (BCI). Species ranged from highly synchronous to continuous fliers, but showed a median flight duration of at least 8 of 13 lunar months. In two statistical analyses (variance ratio test and Spearman rank correlations), 84% (16 of 19) of ant genera had species trending toward positively associated phenologies, more than expected by chance (P<0.00036 by a binomial test). Thus, there was little evidence for the hypothesis that competition for limiting resources staggers congeneric flights and ultimately promotes reproductive isolation. On the contrary, the timing of reproduction, and its synchrony, tended to be conserved within genera and subfamilies. These results closely match phenological studies of plant assemblages. The continuous reproduction and small colony size of many species in this study suggest that the female calling syndrome, a poorly documented mating system in ants, may be common on BCI.
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