On being the right size: male contributions and multiple mating in social Hymenoptera

R. H. Crozier, R. E. Page

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A number of hypotheses for the occurrence of multiple mating by queens of social Hymenoptera are reviewed in the light of Cole's (1983) observation that polyandrous species tend to have larger colonies than single-mating ones. Most of these hypotheses cannot be definitively excluded, but only three of them appear sufficiently general, plausible and predictive to be useful guides to further research. These, and their predictions, are: (1) Caste-determination has a genetic basis and hence polyandry allows fuller expression of the potential caste system in each colony. Species with more complex caste differentiation should be more often polyandrous than species with simpler caste systems. (2) Polyandry maximises the production of divergent worker genotypes and hence the range of environmental conditions that a colony can tolerate. Broader-niched species should be more often polyandrous than species with narrower niches. (3) The reduction of the variance of diploid male production, under the heterozygosity sex-determination model, favors polyandry when sexuals are produced late during colony growth. Queens in species reproducing during the exponential phase of colony growth should tend to mate once, but queens should tend to be polyandrous in species with reproduction occurring further along the colony growth curve. Williams's (1975) observation that the level of genetic variation in a brood approaches a maximum very quickly with increasing polyandry is quantified for females; the initial increase is much greater for male-haploid than for male-diploid species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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