Genetic influence on caste in the ant Camponotus consobrinus

Fraser, Vanessa S., Kaufmann, Bernard, Oldroyd, Benjamin P., and Crozier, Ross H. (2000) Genetic influence on caste in the ant Camponotus consobrinus. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 47 (3). pp. 188-194.

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Abstract

Genetic influences on polyethism within social insect colonies are well-known, suggesting that the determination of caste (soldiers and minor workers) may also be genetically mediated. The Australian sugar ant Camponotus consobrinus is suitable for such a study, having soldiers and minor workers which follow a complex allometry. Further, although most C. consobrinus colonies are monogynous, 13 of 42 surveyed using microsatellites were found to be polygynous. Thus, although a minority of colonies were polygynous, the great majority of queens live in polygynous colonies. From the 29 monogynous colonies studied, we inferred that the queens are monandrous. Ants from four polygynous colonies were assigned to families on the basis of microsatellite genotypes after measurements had been taken of head width and scape length. These measurements reflect a complex allometry interpretable as soldier and minor worker growth curves with a large changeover zone. Genetic influence on caste determination was examined by testing for differences between families within colonies in the distribution of scape lengths, residuals from the overall colony allometric curve, and proportions of soldiers and minor workers (as determined by head width falling above or below the inflection point of the overall colony allometric curve).

Families in all four colonies differed significantly in caste proportions and in head width distributions, and three of the four colonies showed significant differences between families in residuals from the overall colony growth curve. Nested ANOVAS using head widths and scape length residuals showed that when the effect of family is removed intercolony differences in allometry are negligible. This evidence indicates genetic rather than environmental causes for the observed differences between families. We speculate that this variation may reflect some selective advantage to within-colony heterogeneity between families or that selective differences are few between a wide array of family growth patterns.

Item ID: 275
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: formicine ants; Camponotus consobrinus; molecular population genetics; genetic polyethism implications; sociobiology; microsatellites; caste determination; caste biology; morphometrics; polygyny; queen biology; allometry; polygyny
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ISSN: 1432-0762
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2006
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0604 Genetics > 060411 Population, Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060808 Invertebrate Biology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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