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Nestmate recognition and levels of aggression are not altered by changes in genetic diversity in a socially polymorphic ant
The ability to distinguish nestmates from foreign individuals is central to the functioning of insect societies. In ants, workers from multiple-queen colonies are often less aggressive than workers from single-queen ones. In line with this observation, it has been hypothesized that workers from multiple-queen colonies have less precise recognition abilities than workers from single-queen ones because their colonies contain genetically more diverse individuals, which results in a broader template of recognition cues. Here, we assessed the impact of social structure ( queen number) variation on nestmate recognition and aggression in a large population of the socially polymorphic ant Formica selysi. We staged unilateral aggression tests on the nest surface. Workers from single-and multiple-queen colonies had good nestmate recognition ability and did not differ significantly in their level of aggression towards foreign, immobilized workers ( cue-bearers). In particular, workers from multiple-queen colonies efficiently recognized non-nestmates despite the higher genetic diversity in their colony. Cue-bearers from single- and multiple-queen colonies elicited similar reactions. However, the level of aggression was higher between than within social forms, suggesting that workers detect a signal that is specific to the colony social structure. Finally, the level of aggression was not correlated with the genetic distance between colonies. Overall, we found no evidence for the hypothesis that the presence of multiple breeders in the same colony decreases recognition abilities and found no simple relationship between genetic diversity and aggression level. (c) 2007 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviou
aggressive behaviour, Formica selysi, kin recognition, nestmate discrimination, social evolution, social structure
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