Prof. Jürgen Heinze (Universität Regensburg)
in: 'Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution': "The secret life of the solitary social insects - reproductive strategies of ant males"
by Prof. Jürgen Heinze (Universität Regensburg)
In most ant species, mating takes place during short and highly localized nuptial flights, in which females cannot easily choose to mate with a specific partner and males do not gain much from competing aggressively for access to females. This scenario thus leaves little room for sexual selection and makes mating in ants a relatively unexciting episode. In contrast, sexuals of the genus Cardiocondyla usually mate inside the nest. The resulting “seraglio situation” allows individual males to monopolize mating with all female sexuals in their nests and has resulted in the evolution of a bizarre male polyphenism, with wingless fighter males in addition to the standard winged males. In my talk I will give an overview on the diversity of reproductive strategies of Cardiocondyla, including our new findings on indirect infanticide, royal matchmaking, and male territoriality. Furthermore, I will explore the proximate and ultimate causes of wing polyphenism and outline the evolutionary trends in this fascinating genus.