Conditional Use of Sex and Parthenogenesis for Worker and Queen Production in Ants

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Science  03 Dec 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5702, pp. 1780-1783
DOI: 10.1126/science.1105453

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The near-ubiquity of sexual reproduction in animal species has long been considered a paradox because sexually reproducing individuals transmit only half of their genome to their progeny. Here, we show that the ant Cataglyphis cursor circumvents this cost by using alternative modes of reproduction for the production of reproductive and nonreproductive offspring. New queens are almost exclusively produced by parthenogenesis, whereas workers are produced by normal sexual reproduction. By selectively using sex for somatic growth and parthenogenesis for germline production, C. cursor has taken advantage of the ant caste system to benefit from the advantages of both sexual and asexual reproduction.

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