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Experimental conversion of colony social organization in fire ants (Solenopsis invicta): worker genotype manipulation in absence of queen effects

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1007/s10905-008-9130-7
  • Fire Ants
  • Gp-9
  • Monogyny
  • Polygyny
  • Social Organization
  • Solenopsis Invicta
  • Biology


Colony social organization in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta appears to be under strong genetic control. In the invasive USA range, polygyny (multiple queens per colony) is marked by the presence of the Gp-9(b) allele in most of a colony's workers, whereas monogyny (single queen per colony) is associated with the exclusive occurrence of the Gp-9(B) allele. Ross and Keller, Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51:287-295 (2002) experimentally manipulated social organization by cross-fostering queens into colonies of the alternate form, thereby changing adult worker Gp-9 genotype frequencies over time. Although these authors showed that social behavior switched predictably when the frequency of b-bearing adult workers crossed a threshold of 5-10%, the possibility that queen effects caused the conversions could not be excluded entirely. We addressed this problem by fostering polygyne brood into queenright monogyne colonies. All such treatment colonies switched social organization to become polygyne, coincident with their proportions of b-bearing workers exceeding 12%. Our results support the conclusion that polygyny in S. invicta is induced by a minimum frequency of colony workers carrying the b allele, and further confirm that its expression is independent of queen genotype or history, worker genotypes at genes not linked to Gp-9, and colony genetic diversity.

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