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Differentiation of the reproductive tract between dominant and subordinate workers in the Japanese queenless ant Diacamma sp.

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Allard, D., Ito, F., Gobin, B., Tsuji, K. and Billen, J. 2005. Differentiation of the reproductive tract between dominant and subordinate workers in the Japanese queenless ant Diacamma sp. — Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 86: 159–166

In queenless ants, gamergates (mated egg-laying workers) fulfil the reproductive task normally reserved for the queen. Every worker is a potential gamergate, thus we expect pronounced conflicts over sexual reproduction within their colonies. In the queenless ant genus Diacamma, gamergates inhibit nest mates from mating by aggressively removing (‘mutilating’) a pair of small appendages on the thorax, termed gemmae, shortly after eclosion. Dissection and serial sectioning of the reproductive tracts of both mutilated and unmutilated individuals of Diacamma sp. from Japan at different ages revealed that mutilation inhibits the development of the bursa copulatrix and the spermatheca, two structures fundamental for sexual reproduction. The precursor of the bursa copulatrix develops into a fully functional structure in unmutilated individuals, whereas it degenerates irreversibly in mutilated callows. Experimental manipulations showed that the removal of the gemmae is not the sole factor regulating this development. The spermathecal epithelium and accessory spermathecal gland of unmutilated individuals are thicker than that of mutilated individuals, indicating a higher degree of activity in the former. Mutilated females are therefore left incapable of copulating and less competent for long-time sperm storage.

Keywords: Diacamma; bursa copulatrix; gemmae; queenless ants; spermatheca

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Agriculture, Kagawa University, Ikenobe, Miki 761–0795, Japan; 2: Laboratory of Entomology, Zoological Institute, University of Leuven, Naamsestraat 59, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; 3: Faculty of Agriculture, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903–0213, Japan

Publication date: April 1, 2005


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