Main content area

Do army ant queens re-mate later in life?

Kronauer, D. J. C., Boomsma, J. J.
Insectes sociaux 2007 v.54 no.1 pp. 20-28
Dorylus, Eciton, copulation, eggs, evolution, genotyping, insemination, life history, males, microsatellite repeats, social insects, spermatozoa, tropics
Queens of eusocial Hymenoptera are inseminated only during a brief period before they start to lay eggs. This has probably been kin-selected because repeated insemination of old queens would normally be against the inclusive fitness interest of their daughter workers. Army ants have been considered to be the only possible exception to this rule due to their idiosyncratic life-history. We studied two distantly related species of army ants, the African Dorylus (Anomma) molestus and the Neotropical Eciton burchellii and present data from microsatellite genotyping, behavioural observations and sperm counts.We also describe the copulation behaviour of African army ants for the first time. Our results strongly suggest that, contradictory to earlier contentions, army ant queens do not mate repeatedly throughout their life and thus do not constitute an exception among the eusocial Hymenoptera in this respect. Sperm counts for males and queens of both species show that army ant queens have to mate with several males to become fully inseminated. However, sperm limitation by queens is unlikely to have been the prime reason for the evolution of high queen-mating frequencies in this group.