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Evolution of Polygynous Obligate Acacia-Ants in Western Mexico

Daniel H. Janzen
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 42, No. 3 (Oct., 1973), pp. 727-750
DOI: 10.2307/3134
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3134
Page Count: 25
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Evolution of Polygynous Obligate Acacia-Ants in Western Mexico
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Abstract

(1) The colony and population traits of monogynous obligate acacia-ants (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea and others) and polygynous obligate acacia-ants (P. venefica and others) are found to differ on many qualitative points (Table 1). (2) Polygynous obligate acacia-ant colonies are probably the largest in the world, with respect to both the number of queens and workers. They appear to be evolutionarily derived from monogynous species as the product of environments where it is necessary for the founding queen ants to cooperate in colony foundation if the acacia is to survive. They remain polygynous as a result of the way that one queen (and her reproductive offspring) eventually takes over the entire tree, which in turn can grow very large because of the slow rate at which it is eliminated in succession; a polygynous colony is probably the only colony life form that can successfully occupy such a large acacia. (3) Other outstanding traits of polygynous species, such as greatly reduced aggression between conspecific unrelated workers and queens, polymorphic queens, and mating on the parent acacia may be viewed as (necessary?) by-products of a polygynous interaction. (4) The acacias respond evolutionarily to a polygynous ant colony through loss of polymorphism of the swollen thorns, increased perenniality, and increased size of clumps derived originally from one plant.

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