Sunday, 25 October 2015

Flying ants mate close to home, produce inbred offspring

Ant queens stay close to home in their hunt for a mate

Date:October 23, 2015
Source:University of Exeter

Ant queens stay close to home in their hunt for a mate and as a result produce thousands of inbred offspring, a study led by a University of Exeter biologist has found.

The research, published this week in the journal American Naturalist, found that that the queen will often only fly as far as 60 metres before finding a mate, and as a result may well be related to him. A queen mates only once, can live up to 30 years, and will continue re-producing long after her male mate is dead using the original sperm.

The one mating flight will therefore determine the fate of a colony for decades to come. Inbred colonies will produce fewer offspring and a queen who is herself inbred will have a much shorter lifespan.

In most ant species winged queens and males leave their colony to find a mate and this is thought to prevent inbreeding, so researchers have been puzzled by the fact that wild flying ant colonies were found to include inbred workers. This new study carried out at the University of Helsinki provides an explanation.

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