Original Article

Sexual and asexual reproduction of queens in a myrmicine ant, Vollenhovia emeryi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Okamoto, M., Kobayashi, K., Hasegawa, E. & Ohkawara, K.

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Abstract: Sexual reproduction is more common than asexual reproduction in eukaryotes. There are few species with obligate clonality, and most clonal organisms maintain sexual reproduction. Organisms tend to couple sexual reproduction with dispersal, or changes in the environment. These facultatively clonal species use both reproductive systems to reduce the costs of clonality, and to gain benefits of sexuality. In recent decades, clonal reproductive systems have been discovered in some eusocial insects. In the myrmicine ant Vollenhovia emeryi previous research has documented that new queens are produced clonally with complete, diploid, maternal genomes. Usually, new queens have short rudimentary wings and cannot fly, suggesting that dispersal of new colonies is limited. However, some new queens with functional long wings occur in natural colonies, in addition to short-winged queens. In this study, we analyzed the reproductive modes of long-winged queens and short-winged queens. In agreement with previous data, most short-winged queens were produced asexually. However, mature colonies and nutritionally rich colonies tend to produce long-winged queens sexually. Since long-winged queens may encounter different environments after dispersal, higher genetic diversity should be advantageous to increase adaptability. Thus, V. emeryi may have evolved a reproductive strategy to maximize advantages of both clonal and sexual reproduction, as in other facultatively clonal organisms.