Ti Eriksson and Jürgen Gadau co-authored a new study titled: "Intraspecifc variation in colony founding behavior and social organization in the honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax"
"Persistent cooperation between unrelated queens, a phenomenon termed primary polygyny, is rarely found in mature ant societies. In this article we present evidence that primary polygyny occurs in some populations of the desert honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax. Using genetic markers, we found that all mature colonies sampled in a population in the Sierra Ancha Mountains of central Arizona (USA) had multiple queens with a relatively high queen number, while the majority of mature colonies sampled in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona each had a single queen. Field and laboratory observations showed that Chiricahua queens found new colonies alone, whereas Sierra Ancha foundresses can also cooperate to initiate a new colony. Nestmate relatedness of mature Sierra Ancha field colonies was consistent with primary polygyny. In the laboratory, Sierra Ancha foundresses cooperatively established incipient colonies without conflict, and colonies with multiple queens produced more workers and repletes (honeypots) than single-queen colonies. This was in stark contrast to foundresses from the Chiricahua population, which showed strong aggression when artificially forced to found colonies together. When brood raiding was experimentally induced between laboratory Sierra Ancha colonies, queens from colonies with more workers had a higher survival probability, although in some cases the competing colonies fused and queens from both colonies continued to reproduce. Fusion between incipient ant colonies is a rare phenomenon, but could contribute to the high frequency of polygyny and high queen number in mature colonies in the Sierra Ancha population."
For the full paper click here.