Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 517–524 | Cite as

Testing the genetic determination of the soldier caste in the silver ant

  • L. Leniaud
  • M. Pearcy
  • A. Taheri
  • S. Aron
Research Article


Division of labor among workers is a hallmark of social insects that has largely contributed to their ecological success. In a number of species, ants in particular, environmental cues have long been recognized to determine the different phenotypes of workers. Recently, however, a genetic basis for worker polymorphism has been documented in some species. The silver ant Cataglyphis bombycina is characterized by the co-existence of two physiologically distinct castes of non-reproductive individuals: workers and soldiers. Soldiers are not a worker subcaste; they belong to a third caste, along with the queen and the worker castes. Using microsatellite DNA markers, we tested whether soldier caste determination has a genetic component, by comparing the distribution of patrilines between the soldier and the worker castes. Our data show evidence of genotypic variation in caste propensity in only 2 out of 7 colonies sampled. In addition, most patrilines produce both workers and soldiers across all colonies. These results support moderate genotypic influence to soldier caste determination and suggest that non-genetic, likely environmental factors, also influence caste fate among non-reproductive offspring in this species. We also provide new estimates of the queen mating frequency, which support biogeographic variations in mating behavior in C. bombycina.


Division of labor Caste Social insects Mating frequency Cataglyphis 



We thank P.A. Eyer for his help in the field and N. Bennas for her support. Thanks to W.O.H. Hughes for statistical advice. This work was supported by a postdoctoral researcher fellowship (LL) as well as several grants (SA, MP) from the Belgian Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ARC 2010-2015 no. 5).


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Evolutionary Biology and EcologyUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Ecology, Biodiversity and EnvironmentAbdelmalek Essaâdi UniversityTétouanMorocco

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