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Nutritional versus genetic correlates of caste differentiation in a desert ant
- AMOR, FERNANDO, VILLALTA, IRENE, DOUMS, CLAUDIE, ANGULO, ELENA, CAUT, STEPHANE, CASTRO, SARA, JOWERS, MICHAEL J., CERDÁ, XIM, BOULAY, RAPHAËL
- Ecological entomology 2016 v.41 no.6 pp. 660-667
- Cataglyphis, adults, caste determination, castration, flight, genetic analysis, larvae, maternal effect, microsatellite repeats, monogyny, nitrogen, phylogeny, polyandry, stable isotopes
- 1. In many ant species, caste differentiation stems from trophic differences at the larval stage. Adult workers that feed larvae have great control over the allocation of colony resources to growth (production of workers) versus reproduction (production of queens). However, larval caste fate may also be constrained very early on through direct genetic effects or non‐genetic maternal effects. 2. Here, we combined isotopic and genetic analyses to study the developmental origin of queens and workers in a desert‐dwelling ant, Cataglyphis tartessica (Amor & Ortega, 2014). Queens do not found new colonies alone but rather disperse with workers. As the latter are always wingless, selection pressures on specific queen traits such as flight ability have become relaxed. Though the phylogenetically related species, C. emmae (Forel, 1909) only produces winged queens much larger than workers, C. tartessica produces two types of small queens relative to workers: brachypterous (short‐winged) queens and permanently apterous ergatoid (wingless and worker‐like) queens. 3. Upon emergence, workers and ergatoids have similar δ15N isotopic values, which were lower than those of brachypters, suggesting the latter are fed more protein as larvae. Microsatellite analyses indicated that: (i) colonies are mostly monogynous and monandrous; (ii) both ergatoids and brachypters are equally related to workers; and (iii) in the few polyandrous colonies, patrilines were evenly represented across workers, brachypters and ergatoids. 4. Overall, there was no evidence of genetic caste determination. We suggest that, in contrast to brachypters, ergatoids are selfish individuals that escape the nutritional castration carried out by workers and develop into queens in spite of the colony's collective interests.