Multiple mating and facultative polygyny in the Panamanian leafcutter ant Acromyrmex echinatior

Dorte Bekkevold, Jane Frydenberg, Jacobus Jan Boomsma

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Queen mating frequency of the facultatively polygynous ant Acromyrmex echinatior was investigated by analysing genetic variation at an (AG)n repeat microsatellite locus in workers and sexuals of 20 colonies from a single Panamanian population. Thirteen colonies were found to be monogynous, 5 colonies contained multiple queens, whereas the queen number of 2 colonies remained unresolved. Microsatellite genotypes indicated that 12 out of 13 queens were inseminated by multiple males (polyandry). The mean queen mating frequency was 2.53 and the mean genetically effective paternity frequency was 2.23. These values range among the highest found in ants, and the results are in keeping with the high mating frequencies reported for other species of leafcutter ants. Consistent skew in the proportional representation of different patrilines within colonies was found, and this remained constant in two consecutive samples of offspring. Dissections showed that all examined queens from multiple-queen colonies were mated egg-layers. The mean relatedness value among nestmate workers in polygynous colonies was lower than that for monogynous colonies. No diploid males were detected in a sample of 70 genotyped males. Worker production of males was detected in one queenless colony. We discuss our findings in relation to known patterns of multiple maternity and paternity in other eusocial Hymenoptera.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)103-109
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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