Behavioral regulation of genetic caste determination in a Pogonomyrmex population with dependent lineages

Rebecca M. Clark, Kirk E. Anderson, Juergen Gadau, Jennifer Fewell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    16 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The fate of a social insect colony is partially determined by its ability to allocate individuals to the caste most appropriate for the requirements for growth, maintenance, and reproduction. In pairs of dependent lineages of Pogonomyrmex barbatus, the allocation of individuals to the queen or worker caste is constrained by genotype, a system known as genetic caste determination (GCD). In mature GCD colonies, interlineage female eggs develop into sterile workers, while intralineage eggs become reproductively capable queens. Although the population-level consequences of this system have been intensively studied, the proximate mechanisms for GCD remain unknown. To elucidate these mechanisms, we brought newly mated queens into the laboratory and allowed them to establish colonies, nearly half of which unexpectedly produced virgin queens only seven months after colony founding. We genotyped eggs, workers, and the virgin queens from these colonies. Our results showed that queens in young colonies produce both interlineage and intralineage eggs, demonstrating that queens of GCD colonies indiscriminately use sperm of at least two lineages to fertilize their eggs. Intralineage eggs were more frequent in colonies producing virgin queens. These findings suggest that intralineage eggs are predetermined to become queens and that workers may cull these eggs when colonies are not producing queens. Virgin queens produced by young GCD colonies were smaller than field-caught virgin queens, and often had developmental problems. Hence, they are probably nonfunctional and represent an intense resource drain for developing colonies, not a contribution to colony fitness.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)2201-2206
    Number of pages6
    JournalEcology
    Volume87
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 2006

    Fingerprint

    Pogonomyrmex
    caste determination
    caste
    queen insects
    egg
    regulation
    Pogonomyrmex barbatus
    colony founding
    worker caste
    insect colonies
    social insect
    social insects
    sperm
    drain

    Keywords

    • Genetic caste determination
    • Pogonomyrmex barbatus
    • Reproduction
    • Social insects

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology

    Cite this

    Behavioral regulation of genetic caste determination in a Pogonomyrmex population with dependent lineages. / Clark, Rebecca M.; Anderson, Kirk E.; Gadau, Juergen; Fewell, Jennifer.

    In: Ecology, Vol. 87, No. 9, 2006, p. 2201-2206.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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