Ecology

Resistance to Infection

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Science  11 Jul 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5886, pp. 177
DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5886.177a

In 1987, W. D. Hamilton wrote that the pressure of parasites is one of the factors favoring genetic diversity. The ant Formica selysi is found in colonies with single or multiple queens. Colonies with one queen have low genetic diversity, but workers tend to live longer than in polygynous colonies with high genetic diversity. In the wild, the multiqueen colonies are large, and individual workers are small and have short lives, mainly it seems because they do not provision so efficiently. So why does polygyny persist? The advantages of diversity became apparent when Reber et al. brought ants into experimentally controlled conditions to reduce the impact of compensating factors such as environmental variables. Artificial ant colonies revealed a strong advantage conferred by diversity when challenged by a fungal parasite; colonies of lower genetic diversity were decimated by infection. — CA

Ecol. Lett. 11, 682 (2008).

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