Strategies of the invasive tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata) to minimize inbreeding costs

Lenancker, Pauline, Hoffmann, Benjamin D., Tay, Wee Tek, and Lach, Lori (2019) Strategies of the invasive tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata) to minimize inbreeding costs. Scientific Reports, 9. 4566.

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How invasive species overcome challenges associated with low genetic diversity is unclear. Invasive ant populations with low genetic diversity sometimes produce sterile diploid males, which do not contribute to colony labour or reproductive output. We investigated how inbreeding affects colony founding and potential strategies to overcome its effects in the invasive tropical fire ant, Solenopsis geminata. Our genetic analyses of field samples revealed that 13–100% of males per colony (n = 8 males per 10 colonies) were diploid, and that all newly mated queens (n = 40) were single-mated. Our laboratory experiment in which we assigned newly mated queens to nests consisting of 1, 2, 3, or 5 queens (n = 95 ± 9 replicates) revealed that pleometrosis (queens founding their nest together) and diploid male larvae execution can compensate for diploid male load. The proportion of diploid male producing (DMP) colonies was 22.4%, and DMP colonies produced fewer pupae and adult workers than non-DMP colonies. Pleometrosis significantly increased colony size. Queens executed their diploid male larvae in 43.5% of the DMP colonies, and we hypothesize that cannibalism benefits incipient colonies because queens can redirect nutrients to worker brood. Pleometrosis and cannibalism of diploid male larvae represent strategies through which invasive ants can successfully establish despite high inbreeding.

Item ID: 59412
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Funders: Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2019 00:50
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410202 Biosecurity science and invasive species ecology @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310913 Invertebrate biology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960411 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Urban and Industrial Environments @ 40%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 60%
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