Queen Control of Sex Ratio in Fire Ants

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Science  17 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5533, pp. 1308-1310
DOI: 10.1126/science.1062076

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The haplodiploid sex-determination system of ants gives rise to conflict between queens and workers over colony sex ratios, and the female-biased allocation ratios seen in many species suggest that workers often prevail in this conflict. We exchanged queens between male- and female-specialist colonies of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. These exchanges quickly reversed the sex-ratio biases of adopting colonies. The sex ratio of queen-laid eggs differed strongly between male- and female-specialist colonies. These findings suggest that queens can force workers to raise male sexuals by limiting the number of female brood and help to explain why sex investment ratios lie between the queen and worker equilibria in this and many other ant species.

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