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Alternative reproductive tactics and the impact of local competition on sex ratios in the ant Hypoponera opacior

Susanne Foitzik, Ilka Maria Kureck, Markus Hannes Rüger and Dirk Metzler
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Vol. 64, No. 10 (October 2010), pp. 1641-1654
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40863231
Page Count: 14
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Alternative reproductive tactics and the impact of local competition on sex ratios in the ant Hypoponera opacior
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Abstract

The ant Hypoponera opacior exhibits alternative reproductive morphs of males and females associated with distinct sexual behaviours. Our long-term study reports strong seasonality in sexual production with a mating season in early and one in late summer. Winged (alate) reproductives emerge in June, swarm during the monsoon season and establish new colonies independently. In contrast, wingless worker-like (ergatoid) reproductives that appear in late August mate within their natal or adjacent nests and either do not disperse or establish new nests close by. These divergent dispersal patterns allowed us to analyse the impact of local factors on investment strategies by comparing sex allocation between and within the two reproductive events. The optimal sex ratio for ergatoid reproductives should be influenced both by competition for matings between brothers (local mate competition) and rivalry among young locally dispersing queens for workers, nest sites or food (local resource competition). The greater importance of local resource competition was demonstrated both by a male-biased sex ratio for wingless sexuais and a stronger increase in the number of males with total sexual production than for the number of queens. Microsatellite analysis revealed that inter-nest variation in relatedness asymmetry cannot explain split sex ratios in the August generation. Instead, nests with related ergatoid males raised a male-biased sex ratio contrary to the expectations under local mate competition. In conclusion, male bias in wingless opacior indicates that local mate competition is less strong than local resource competition among ergatoid queens over the help of workers during nest foundation.

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