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Data from: Queen-worker ratio affects reproductive skew in a socially polymorphic ant

Cite this dataset

Walter, Bartosz; Heize, Jürgen (2016). Data from: Queen-worker ratio affects reproductive skew in a socially polymorphic ant [Dataset]. Dryad.


The partitioning of reproduction among individuals in communally breeding animals varies greatly among species, from the monopolization of reproduction (high reproductive skew) to similar contribution to the offspring in others (low skew). Reproductive skew models explain how relatedness or ecological constraints affect the magnitude of reproductive skew. They typically assume that individuals are capable of flexibly reacting to social and environmental changes. Most models predict a decrease of skew when benefits of staying in the group are reduced. In the ant Leptothorax acervorum, queens in colonies from marginal habitats form dominance hierarchies and only the top-ranking queen lays eggs (“functional monogyny”). In contrast, queens in colonies from extended coniferous forests throughout the Palaearctic rarely interact aggressively and all lay eggs (“polygyny”). An experimental increase of queen:worker ratios in colonies from low-skew populations elicits queen–queen aggression similar to that in functionally monogynous populations. Here, we show that this manipulation also results in increased reproductive inequalities among queens. Queens from natural overwintering colonies differed in the number of developing oocytes in their ovaries. These differences were greatly augmented in queens from colonies with increased queen:worker ratios relative to colonies with a low queen:worker ratio. As assumed by models of reproductive skew, L. acervorum colonies thus appear to be capable of flexibly adjusting reproductive skew to social conditions, yet in the opposite way than predicted by most models.

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