Reproductive alliances and posthumous fitness enhancement in male ants

Liselotte Sundström, Jacobus J. Boomsma

Abstract

Ants provide excellent opportunities for studying the evolutionary aspects of reproductive conflict. Relatedness asymmetries owing to the haplodiploid sex determination of Hymenoptera create substantial fitness incentives for gaining control over sex allocation, often at the expense of the fitness interests of nest–mates. Under worker–controlled split sex ratios either the reproductive interests of the mother queen (when workers male bias the sex ratio) or the father (when workers female bias the sex ratio), but never that of both parents simultaneously, are fulfilled. When workers bias sex ratios according to the frequency of queen mating, males which co–sire a colony have a joint interest in manipulating their daughter workers into rearing a more female–biased sex ratio. Here we show that males of the ant Formica truncorum achieve such manipulation by partial sperm clumping, so that the cohort–specific relatedness asymmetry of the workers in colonies with multiple fathers is higher than the cumulative relatedness asymmetry across worker cohorts. This occurs because a single male fathers the majority of the offspring within a cohort. Colonies with higher average cohort–specific relatedness asymmetry produce more female–biased sex ratios. Posthumously expressed male genes are thus able to oppose the reproductive interests of the genes expressed in queens and the latter apparently lack mechanisms for enforcing full control over sperm mixing and sperm allocation.