The ability of workers to produce male individuals is reported here for the first time in a species of the formicine ant genus Prolasius. We show that Prolasius advenus workers possess ovaries and demonstrate that they are able to produce adult males in queenless colonies. We also experimentally tested the influence of queen volatiles on the level of worker reproduction. Workers produced fewer eggs in treatments where they could perceive odors from queens. Some volatile compounds emitted by queens may thus have a signaling or inhibitory effect on worker reproduction. This effect of queen presence did not entirely stop worker reproduction, however, as adult males still emerged under these conditions. Worker-produced males were absent only in treatments with the physical presence of queens. Dissections of workers collected from queenright nests in the field revealed signs of egg-laying activity in more than half of individuals. Together, these results suggest that in nature P. advenus workers produce males at least in orphaned colonies or in situations where the physical presence of queens is limited.
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We are grateful to Evan Brenton-Rule for lab assistance, to Allan Burne, Monica Gruber and Alexandra Sébastien for useful discussions, to two anonymous reviewers for useful comments on the manuscript, and to the Department of Conservation of New Zealand for allowing us to work in the Nelson Lakes National Park. This work was supported by a RSNZ Marsden fund grant.
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Grangier, J., Avril, A. & Lester, P.J. Male production by workers in the polygynous ant Prolasius advenus . Insect. Soc. 60, 303–308 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-013-0294-6
- Worker reproduction
- Ant males
- Prolasius advenus
- Reproductive conflicts