Mating with stressed males increases the fitness of ant queens

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Abstract

Background: According to sexual conflict theory, males can increase their own fitness, by transferring substances during copulation that increase the short-term fecundity of their mating partners at the cost of the future life expectancy and remating capability of the latter. In contrast, sexual cooperation is expected in social insects. Mating indeed positively affects life span and fecundity of young queen of the male-Polymorphic ant Cardiocondyla obscurior, even though males neither provide nuptial gifts nor any other care but leave their mates immediately after copulation and die shortly thereafter. Principal Findings: Here, we show that mating with winged disperser males has a significantly stronger impact on life span and reproductive success of young queens of C. obscurior than mating with wingless fighter males. Conclusions: Winged males are reared mostly under stressful environmental conditions, which force young queens to disperse and found their own societies independently. In contrast, queens that mate with wingless males under favourable conditions usually start reproducing in the safety of established maternal nest. Our study suggests that males of C. obscurior have evolved mechanisms to posthumously assist young queens during colony founding under adverse ecological conditions. © 2008 Schrempf, Heinze.

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Schrempf, A., & Heinze, J. (2008). Mating with stressed males increases the fitness of ant queens. PLoS ONE, 3(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0002592

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