Lifespan in male ants linked to mating syndrome

Abstract

Male ants have long been thought to leave the nest, swarm, mate and die in quick succession (male aggregation syndrome). However, the ancestors of the ants likely used female calling, where females advertise with pheromones for longer lived and presumably free living males. In this study, male lifespan was compared in four species from a Panama rain forest. Males of two species with aggregation syndrome (Atta colombica and Azteca sp.) lived only days after collection at a light trap, and their lifespan failed to increase when supplied sugar water ad libitum. In contrast, two species with female calling syndrome (Ectatomma ruidum and Paraponera clavata) lived up to 116 days when fed. These results link male lifespan to mating systems, and provide a framework to examine variation in how ant colonies invest in males.

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Acknowledgments

R. Cothran, D. Donoso, O. Fincke, E. Marsh Matthews, and D. Shepard provided many excellent suggestions for improving this manuscript. R. Bixenmann assisted in caring for male alates. During this research, JZS was supported by an Adams Summer Research Fellowship from the Department of Zoology of the University of Oklahoma.

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Correspondence to J. Z. Shik.

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Shik, J.Z., Kaspari, M. Lifespan in male ants linked to mating syndrome. Insect. Soc. 56, 131–134 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-009-0003-7

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Keywords

  • Body size
  • Female calling syndrome
  • Life history
  • Male aggregation syndrome