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In most colonies, ants work in service of a single reproductive queen, but that's not always the way ant societies function.
Researchers at the University of Georgia have found colonies of tropical fire ants, native to Florida and coastal Georgia, that thrive with multiple queens and in close proximity to single-queen colonies of the same species.
Coexistence - Structures - Kip - Lacy - More
"The coexistence of two dramatically different social structures fascinated me," Kip Lacy said. "I had to know more."
Lacy, who is currently a graduate fellow at the Rockefeller University but received his master's degree in entomology from UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2018, worked with UGA fire ant researcher Ken Ross and DeWayne Shoemaker at the University of Tennessee to isolate and document the multi-queen colonies.
Work - April - Edition - Current - Biology
Their work will appear in the April 2019 edition of Current Biology. An online version of the paper is available here.
Lacy worked with colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service in Gainesville, Florida, to help find and isolate the communities of native fire ants that cover the shoulders and medians of Florida highways.
Areas - Polygyne - Colonies - Monogyne - Colonies
In these areas, they found that multi-queen "polygyne" colonies would be nestled right next to single-queen "monogyne" colonies of the same species. Nests with single queens were found as close as 5 feet away from nests with as many as 13 queens, Lacy said.
"They can exist right next to each other, but their social structure remains intact," Lacy said.
Fire - Colonies - Queen - Male - Ant
Many fire ant colonies are founded by a single queen, mated to a male ant from a different colony, who produces all of the eggs to start a colony of her own. However, it's not unheard of for ants of the same species to develop alternative reproductive habits.
Ross, who has studied fire ant genetics and social structures for decades, previously documented the coexistence of monogyne and...
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