Social parasites exploit the brood care behavior of their hosts to raise their own offspring. Social parasites are common among eusocial Hymenoptera and exhibit a wide range of distinct life history traits in ants, bees, and wasps. In ants, obligate inquiline social parasites are workerless (or nearly-so) species that engage in lifelong interactions with their hosts, taking advantage of the existing host worker forces to reproduce and exploit host colonies’ resources. Inquiline social parasites are phylogenetically diverse with approximately 100 known species that evolved at least 40 times independently in ants. Importantly, ant inquilines tend to be closely related to their hosts, an observation referred to as ‘Emery’s Rule’. Polygyny, the presence of multiple egg-laying queens, was repeatedly suggested to be associated with the origin of inquiline social parasitism, either by providing the opportunity for reproductive cheating, thereby facilitating the origin of social parasite species, and/or by making polygynous species more vulnerable to social parasitism via the acceptance of additional egg-laying queens in their colonies. Although the association between host polygyny and the evolution of social parasitism has been repeatedly discussed in the literature, it has not been statistically tested in a phylogenetic framework across the ants. Here, wemore »
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Insect societies vary greatly in their social structure, mating biology, and life history. Polygyny, the presence of multiple reproductive queens in a single colony, and polyandry, multiple mating by females, both increase the genetic variability in colonies of eusocial organisms, resulting in potential reproductive conflicts. The co-occurrence of polygyny and polyandry in a single species is rarely observed across eusocial insects, and these traits have been found to be negatively correlated in ants.
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