Browsing by Subject "tupsukekomuurahainen (Formica aquilonia)"

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  • Lindgren, Rosanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Eusociality in ants is based on obligate differences of castes and fitness of workers is indirect following from helping relatives to reproduce. Superorganismality of ant colonies has required high within-colony relatedness to evolve. This has been made possible by one monogamous queen who is the mother of the whole colony. However, the most common wood ant in Finland, Formica aquilonia, forms supercolonies, where even hundreds of nests each containing even hundreds of egg-laying queens, form a network. This kind of social structure is very effective way to compete with other ant species and thrive in habitats where food is patchily distributed and new colony sites can be hard to find. Dispersal of queens is typically very limited likely due to poor success of independent colony founding. Queens stay and continue reproducing even in their natal nest, which increases queen number and makes the relative relatedness in the supercolony very low. According to kin selection theory this is threatening to the inclusive fitness of both workers and queens. Low relatedness can cause severe conflicts inside the supercolony. Some supercolonial ant species are known to kill their new queens and the aim of my study was to prove that killings are happening also in F. aquilonia. I also discuss some of the possible reasons to kill queens. I designed four different treatments and compared the survival of queens between them. Both young and old queens were together without workers, with only their workers, and in one treatment where all three parties were together. In this way, I could see who kills who and whether the absence or presence of some party affects the killings. I collected ants, old queens and pupae from the forest and waited for pupae to hatch to get young, unmated, winged queens. I put the ants together in experiment nests, followed their behavior for 7 days and counted the number of dead and alive old and young queens each day. According to my results young queens did best with old queens without workers. Workers killed young queens by biting and dragged them out of the nest chambers. Old queens seemed to suffer without workers which confirms that these queens were normally taken care of. Queens seemed not to be aggressive towards each other. Why young queens are executed? Maybe because they were unmated, so they could not lay new worker force or queens. It is also possible that there is dispersal conflict in the supercolony. Workers and old queens (the mother colony) want the young ones to fly away and start their own colonies, so that kin-competition would decrease, one queen could have more fitness and hence the fitness of workers would increase as well. It is also possible that workers don’t want extra queens when they have enough already, Old queens could possibly manipulate workers to kill young unrelated queens which could also explain why killing of young queens increased in their presence. Killing can also possibly increase worker relatedness in the supercolony, which could save their inclusive fitness and maintain this paradoxal social structure.