Multiple mating in the ant Acromyrmex versicolor: A case of female control

  • Reichardt A
  • Wheeler D
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In eusocial insects, polyandrous mating has the potential to reduce genetic relatedness of individuals within a colony, which may have a profound effect on the stability and social structure of the colony. Here we present evidence that multiple mating is common in both males and females of the desert leaf-cutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor. Females seem to have complete control over the number of matings, and mate on average with three males, even though the sperm transferred in a single copulation is sufficient to fill the spermatheca. To determine whether there is a bias in the representation of sperm from different mates in the spermatheca, females were mated to three or four males in controlled mating experiments and were subsequently allowed to found colonies in the laboratory. Paternity analysis of the offspring by random amplified polymorphic DNA analysis showed that all males that have been mated to a female successfully contributed sperm to the production of her offspring. No significant asymmetry in sperm use was detected, suggesting complete sperm mixing. Different hypotheses to explain polyandrous mating are discussed, and it is argued that the best hypothesis to explain polyandrous mating and complete sperm mixing in A. versicolor is that utilizing genetically diverse sperm confers a selective advantage on females.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Acromyrmex versicolor
  • Paternity
  • Polyandry
  • RAPD
  • Sperm utilization

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  • Anna K. Reichardt

  • D. E. Wheeler

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