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Seasonal Decline in Intracolony Genetic Relatedness in Eastern Tent Caterpillars: Implications for Social Evolution

James T. Costa, III and Kenneth G. Ross
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Vol. 32, No. 1 (1993), pp. 47-54
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4600782
Page Count: 8
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Seasonal Decline in Intracolony Genetic Relatedness in Eastern Tent Caterpillars: Implications for Social Evolution
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Abstract

Genetic relatedness in social insect colonies may vary spatially or temporally as a result of changes in colony membership due to immigration or to variation in patterns of maternity and paternity. We estimated relatedness for eastern tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) in laboratory colonies derived from egg masses using multilocus genotypic data derived from electrophoresis. This estimate is compared with estimates obtained from colony samples taken in the field at four intervals spanning the larval developmental season. We found that average intracolony relatedness is close to 0.5 initially but declines through the developmental season due to colony merging, showing that caterpillars do not discriminate between siblings and non-siblings in order to preserve colony family structure. Using the intracolony values together with relatedness values for higher levels of population structure, we estimated the effective mean number of simple families represented in single colonies through the season. The overall effective number of families per tent increased from one at the time of eclosion to 1.3 by the end of the season. Average intracolony relatedness remained relatively high despite the occurrence of colony merging, apparently as a result of the low density of tents on most trees, combined with high relatedness within the original colonies. Thus, high intracolony relatedness is maintained in M. americanum populations through the effects of adult dispersal, mating, and oviposition patterns, rather than through behavioral discrimination mechanisms of the larvae. These findings underscore the importance of considering the causes of temporal variation in genetic relatedness as well as the consequences for the indirect component of inclusive fitness.

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