Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 326, Issue 1, pp 169–178 | Cite as

Queen-worker differences in spermatheca reservoir of phylogenetically basal ants

  • Bruno GobinEmail author
  • Fuminori Ito
  • Christian Peeters
  • Johan Billen
Regular Article


Ant queens mate when young and store sperm in their spermatheca to fertilize eggs for several years until their death. In contrast, workers in most species never mate. We have compared the histological organization of spermathecae in 25 poneromorph species exhibiting various degrees of queen-worker dimorphism. The spermathecae of both castes in all species are similar in having a reservoir connected by a sperm duct to the ovary, and a paired gland opening into this duct. The reservoir of queens typically has a columnar epithelium in the hilar region (near the opening of the sperm duct), whereas the epithelium in the distal region is cuboidal. Abundant mitochondria together with apical microvilli and basal invaginations indicate an osmoregulatory function. In contrast, the reservoir epithelium of workers is flattened throughout and lacks these transport characteristics. This single difference shows the importance of a columnar epithelium in the reservoir for sperm storage. However, our data have not revealed inter-specific variations in the development of the hilar region linked with higher fecundity. We have found no consistent differences in associated structures, such as the spermatheca gland or sperm ducts, or in the musculature between queens and workers.


Sperm storage Dimorphism Mating Haplodiploidy Hymenoptera Ants 



We thank numerous colleagues for providing us with specimens, especially T. Monnin, J. Liebig, D. Fresneau, J. Delabie, X. Espadaler, A. Hartmann and K. Schilder. We are indebted to D. Wheeler and T. Wenseleers for comments on the manuscript and to W. Fannes, D. Corstjens and K. Collart for preparing the microscopic slides.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruno Gobin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Fuminori Ito
    • 2
  • Christian Peeters
    • 3
  • Johan Billen
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of EntomologyK.U. LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of AgricultureKagawa UniversityTakamatsuJapan
  3. 3.CNRS UMR 7625, Laboratoire d’ÉcologieUniversité Pierre et Marie CurieParisFrance
  4. 4.Zoology DepartmentPCFruit-Royal Research Station of GorsemSint TruidenBelgium

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