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Social selection and the evolution of a female weapon in queens of the ant Messor pergandei (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Bespalova, Ioulia, Helms, Ken R.
Biological journal of the Linnean Society 2014 v.113 no.4 pp. 1011-1020
Messor, evolution, females, males, nests, progeny, social environment
The evolution of weaponry occurs less frequently in females than in males and is most often important for protecting ecological resources or offspring rather than winning mates. The purpose of female weapons is often confounded by the presence of similar weapons in males, so cases where only females need weapons provide important tests of our understanding of how and why weapons evolve. In some populations of the ant, Messor pergandei (Mayr), newly mated queens initiate new nests in social groups that subsequently break down when queens engage in battles for control. The incipient social environment differs geographically, so that lethal fighting occurs in some populations but not others. Consistent with the hypothesis that queens in populations where lethal fighting occurs should show selection for weaponry (broad heads and strong mandibles), we found that heads of queens from sites where lethal fighting occurs were broader than those at sites with non‐fighting queens and a site with solitary queens. Evolution of weaponry is specific to queens, because regression results from workers often did not follow this pattern.