Worker reproduction of the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes

Ching Chen Lee, Hirotaka Nakao, Shu Ping Tseng, Hung Wei Hsu, Gwo Li Lin, Jia Wei Tay, Johan Billen, Fuminori Ito, Chow Yang Lee, Chung Chi Lin, Chin Cheng Scotty Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Reproductive division of labor is one of the key features of social insects. Queens are adapted for reproduction while workers are adapted for foraging and colony maintenance. In many species, however, workers retain functional ovaries and can lay unfertilized male eggs or trophic eggs. Here we report for the first time on the occurrence of physogastric workers and apparent worker reproduction in the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes (Fr. Smith). We further examined the reproductive potential and nutritional role of physogastric workers through multidisciplinary approaches including morphological characterization, laboratory manipulation, genetic analysis and behavioral observation. Results: Egg production with two types of eggs, namely reproductive and trophic eggs, by physogastric workers was found. The reproductive egg was confirmed to be haploid and male-destined, suggesting that the workers produced males via arrhenotokous parthenogenesis as no spermatheca was discovered. Detailed observations suggested that larvae were mainly fed with trophic eggs. Along with consumption of trophic eggs by queens and other castes as part of their diet, the vital role of physogastric workers as "trophic specialist" is confirmed. Conclusion: We propose that adaptive advantages derived from worker reproduction for A. gracilipes may include 1) trophic eggs provisioned by physogastric workers likely assist colonies of A. gracilipes in overcoming unfavorable conditions such as paucity of food during critical founding stage; 2) worker-produced males are fertile and thus might offer an inclusive fitness advantage for the doomed orphaned colony.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24
JournalFrontiers in Zoology
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 8

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Anoplolepis gracilipes
ant
egg
queen insects
polyethism
spermatheca
eggs
parthenogenesis
social insects
haploidy
genetic techniques and protocols
egg production
foraging
inclusive fitness
social insect
reproductive potential
caste
larvae
labor division
genetic analysis

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Lee, C. C., Nakao, H., Tseng, S. P., Hsu, H. W., Lin, G. L., Tay, J. W., ... Yang, C. C. S. (2017). Worker reproduction of the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes. Frontiers in Zoology, 14(1), [24]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-017-0210-4
Lee, Ching Chen ; Nakao, Hirotaka ; Tseng, Shu Ping ; Hsu, Hung Wei ; Lin, Gwo Li ; Tay, Jia Wei ; Billen, Johan ; Ito, Fuminori ; Lee, Chow Yang ; Lin, Chung Chi ; Yang, Chin Cheng Scotty. / Worker reproduction of the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes. In: Frontiers in Zoology. 2017 ; Vol. 14, No. 1.
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Lee, CC, Nakao, H, Tseng, SP, Hsu, HW, Lin, GL, Tay, JW, Billen, J, Ito, F, Lee, CY, Lin, CC & Yang, CCS 2017, 'Worker reproduction of the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes', Frontiers in Zoology, vol. 14, no. 1, 24. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-017-0210-4

Worker reproduction of the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes. / Lee, Ching Chen; Nakao, Hirotaka; Tseng, Shu Ping; Hsu, Hung Wei; Lin, Gwo Li; Tay, Jia Wei; Billen, Johan; Ito, Fuminori; Lee, Chow Yang; Lin, Chung Chi; Yang, Chin Cheng Scotty.

In: Frontiers in Zoology, Vol. 14, No. 1, 24, 08.05.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T1 - Worker reproduction of the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes

AU - Lee, Ching Chen

AU - Nakao, Hirotaka

AU - Tseng, Shu Ping

AU - Hsu, Hung Wei

AU - Lin, Gwo Li

AU - Tay, Jia Wei

AU - Billen, Johan

AU - Ito, Fuminori

AU - Lee, Chow Yang

AU - Lin, Chung Chi

AU - Yang, Chin Cheng Scotty

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N2 - Background: Reproductive division of labor is one of the key features of social insects. Queens are adapted for reproduction while workers are adapted for foraging and colony maintenance. In many species, however, workers retain functional ovaries and can lay unfertilized male eggs or trophic eggs. Here we report for the first time on the occurrence of physogastric workers and apparent worker reproduction in the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes (Fr. Smith). We further examined the reproductive potential and nutritional role of physogastric workers through multidisciplinary approaches including morphological characterization, laboratory manipulation, genetic analysis and behavioral observation. Results: Egg production with two types of eggs, namely reproductive and trophic eggs, by physogastric workers was found. The reproductive egg was confirmed to be haploid and male-destined, suggesting that the workers produced males via arrhenotokous parthenogenesis as no spermatheca was discovered. Detailed observations suggested that larvae were mainly fed with trophic eggs. Along with consumption of trophic eggs by queens and other castes as part of their diet, the vital role of physogastric workers as "trophic specialist" is confirmed. Conclusion: We propose that adaptive advantages derived from worker reproduction for A. gracilipes may include 1) trophic eggs provisioned by physogastric workers likely assist colonies of A. gracilipes in overcoming unfavorable conditions such as paucity of food during critical founding stage; 2) worker-produced males are fertile and thus might offer an inclusive fitness advantage for the doomed orphaned colony.

AB - Background: Reproductive division of labor is one of the key features of social insects. Queens are adapted for reproduction while workers are adapted for foraging and colony maintenance. In many species, however, workers retain functional ovaries and can lay unfertilized male eggs or trophic eggs. Here we report for the first time on the occurrence of physogastric workers and apparent worker reproduction in the invasive yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes (Fr. Smith). We further examined the reproductive potential and nutritional role of physogastric workers through multidisciplinary approaches including morphological characterization, laboratory manipulation, genetic analysis and behavioral observation. Results: Egg production with two types of eggs, namely reproductive and trophic eggs, by physogastric workers was found. The reproductive egg was confirmed to be haploid and male-destined, suggesting that the workers produced males via arrhenotokous parthenogenesis as no spermatheca was discovered. Detailed observations suggested that larvae were mainly fed with trophic eggs. Along with consumption of trophic eggs by queens and other castes as part of their diet, the vital role of physogastric workers as "trophic specialist" is confirmed. Conclusion: We propose that adaptive advantages derived from worker reproduction for A. gracilipes may include 1) trophic eggs provisioned by physogastric workers likely assist colonies of A. gracilipes in overcoming unfavorable conditions such as paucity of food during critical founding stage; 2) worker-produced males are fertile and thus might offer an inclusive fitness advantage for the doomed orphaned colony.

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