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A Unique Conjunction: Evidence for Gynogenesis Accompanying Haplodiploid Sex Determination in the Australian Ant Myrmecia impaternata Taylor

Taylor, Robert W., Imai, Hirotami T., Hasegawa, Eisuke, Beaton, Colin D.
Psyche 2018 v.2018
Myrmecia pilosula, Nothomyrmecia macrops, copulation, diploidy, females, genome, gynogenesis, haploidy, hosts, hybrids, males, nests, oocytes, parthenogenesis, progeny, rearing, sex determination, spermatozoa, sympatry
Myrmecia impaternata is an allodiploid all-female species of hybrid origin. Its parental taxa are confirmed here to be M. banksi and M. pilosula. We suggest that its queens produce diploid female offspring by gynogenetic parthenogenesis, a process which requires interaction between unreduced maternal oocytes and allospecific sperm cells obtained by copulation with another related species. We propose that impaternata queens almost certainly mate for this purpose with males reared in impaternata nests from eggs laid by impaternata females. Because sex in ants is determined by haplodiploidy (males haploid, females diploid), we posit that these males would in fact not be technically conspecific with the females in whose reproductive systems they developed, since they would each carry the haploid genome of one or other of the hybridic parental species. They would therefore be individually identical karyologically to males of either M. banksi or M. pilosula and appropriately allospecific to M. impaternata. We postulate that, unlike all other known gynogens, M. impaternata would have no need to maintain parasitic affiliation or sympatry with free-living sperm-donor host species. Its queens are arguably able to produce the required allospecific males by accessing their own genomes. M. impaternata apparently originated by instantaneous speciation when individuals of its parental species first successfully hybridized.