Newly mated queens of monogynous (single queen) ants usually found their colonies independently, without the assistance of workers. In polygynous (multiple queen) species queens are often adopted back into their natal nest and new colonies are established by budding. We report that the Australian 'living-fossil' ant, Nothomyrmecia macrops, is exceptional in that its single queen can be replaced by one of the colony's daughters. This type of colony founding is an interesting alternative reproductive strategy in monogynous ants, which maximizes fitness under kin selection. Successive queen replacement results in a series of reproductives over time (serial polygyny), making these colonies potentially immortal. Workers raise nieces and nephews (relatedness ≤ 0.375) the year after queen replacement. Although N. macrops is 'primitive' in many other respects, colony inheritance is likely to be a derived specialization resulting from ecological constraints on solitary founding.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Sanetra, M., Crozier, R.H. Daughters inherit colonies from mothers in the 'living-fossil' ant Nothomyrmecia macrops . Naturwissenschaften 89, 71–74 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-001-0288-5