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Microsatellites reveal high population viscosity and limited dispersal in the ant Formica paralugubris
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We used microsatellites to study the fine-scale genetic structure of a highly polygynous and largely uni-colonial population of the ant Formica paralugubris. Genetic data indicate that long-distance gene flow between established nests is limited and new queens are primarily recruited from within their natal nest. Most matings occur between nestmates and are random at this level. In the center of the study area, budding and permanent connections between nests result in strong population viscosity, with close nests being more similar generically than distant nests. In contrast, nests located outside of this supercolony show no isolation by distance, suggesting that they have been initiated by queens that participated in mating flights rather than by budding from nearby nests in our sample population. Recruitment of nestmates as new reproductive individuals and population viscosity in the supercolony increase genetic differentiation between nests. This in turn inflates relatedness estimates among worker nestmates (r = 0.17) above what is due to close pedigree links. Local spatial genetic differentiation may favor the maintenance of altruism when workers raise queens that will disperse on foot and compete with less related queens from neighboring nests or disperse on the wing and compete with unrelated queens.
ants, dispersal, Formica, genetic differentiation, microsatellite, population viscosity, queen number, relatedness, social evolution, social insects
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