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Size and fat content of gynes in relation to the mode of colony founding in ants (Hymenoptera; Formicidae)
In ants, there are two main processes of colony founding, the independent and the dependent modes. In the first case young queens start colony founding without the help of workers, whereas in the second case they are accompanied by workers. To determine the relation between the mode of colony founding and the physiology of queens, we collected mature gynes of 24 ant species. Mature gynes of species utilizing independent colony founding had a far higher relative fat content than gynes of species employing dependent colony founding. These fat reserves are stored during the period of maturation, i.e. between the time of emergence and mating, and serve as fuel during the time of colony founding to nurture the queen and the brood. Gynes of species founding independently but non claustrally were found to have a relative fat content intermediate between the values found for gynes founding independently and those founding dependently. This suggests that such gynes rely partially on their fat reserves and partially on the energy provided by prey they collect to nurture themselves and the first brood during the time of colony founding. Study of the fat content of mature gynes of all species has shown that it gives a good indication of the mode of colony founding.
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