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Egg-Laying "Intermorphs" in the Ant Crematogaster smithi neither Affect Sexual Production nor Male Parentage.
We study male parentage and between-colony variation in sex allocation and sexual production in the desert ant Crematogaster smithi, which usually has only one singly-mated queen per nest. Colonies of this species are known to temporarily store nutrients in the large fat body of intermorphs, a specialized female caste intermediate in morphology between queens and workers. Intermorphs repackage at least part of this fat into consumable but viable male-destined eggs. If these eggs sometimes develop instead of being eaten, intermorphs will be reproductive competitors of the queen but-due to relatedness asymmetries-allies of their sister worker. Using genetic markers we found a considerable proportion of non-queen sons in some, but not all, colonies. Even though intermorphs produce ∼1.7× more eggs than workers, their share in the parentage of adult males is estimated to be negligible due to their small number compared to workers. Furthermore, neither colony-level sex allocation nor overall sexual production was correlated with intermorph occurrence or number. We conclude that intermorph-laid eggs typically do not survive and that the storage of nutrients and their redistribution as eggs by intermorphs is effectively altruistic.
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