Mating behaviors of ants fall into two categories: female calling, in which a female alate releases pheromones that attract males, and male swarming, in which large male aggregations attract females. Female calling is common in species with queens that return to their natal nest to found colonies dependently after mating, while male swarming is common in species with queens that disperse to found independently. In some species that display both founding strategies, a queen-size polymorphism has evolved in which dependent-founding queens are smaller than independent-founding queens. Dependent founding is likely difficult if gynes (virgin queens) are mating in distant swarms. Therefore, a queen may adopt one or the other mating strategy based on its size and founding behavior. We investigated mating behaviors in the queen-polymorphic ant, Temnothorax longispinosus. Observations in laboratory mating arenas indicated that small gynes exhibited significantly lower flight activity than large gynes. Both forms mated in male swarms, and neither form exhibited female calling. The reduced flight activity of the small morph may facilitate returning to the natal nest after mating, provided the mating swarm is located nearby. Therefore, alternative colony-founding behaviors may be possible without the evolution of female-calling behavior; however, the reduced flight activity of small morphs may require that mating swarms are not distant from the natal nest.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics