Ants are important components of most terrestrial habitats, and a better knowledge of the diversity of their life histories is essential to understand many aspects of ecosystem functioning. The myrmicine genus Cardiocondyla shows a wide range of colony structures, reproductive behaviours, queen and male lifespans, and habitat use. Reconstructing the evolutionary pathways of individual and social phenotypic traits suggests that the ancestral life history of Cardiocondyla was characterized by the presence of multiple, short-lived queens in small-sized colonies and a male polyphenism with winged dispersers and wingless fighters, which engage in lethal combat over female sexuals within their natal nests. Single queening, queen polyphenism, the loss of winged males and tolerance among wingless males appear to be derived traits that evolved with changes in nesting habits, colony size and the spread from tropical to seasonal environments. The aim of this review is to bring together the information on life-history evolution in Cardiocondyla and to highlight the suitability of this genus for functional genomic studies of adaptation, phenotypic plasticity, senescence, invasiveness and other key life-history traits of ants.
This paper is dedicated to Bert Hölldobler for his 80th birthday, who recognized the enormous potential of Cardiocondyla when I showed him colonies of C. mauritanica collected by Sabine Kauffmann and me on the Canary Islands in 1990.
One contribution to a special feature ‘Ant interactions with their biotic environments’.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3670207.
- Received June 21, 2016.
- Accepted September 6, 2016.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.