Stress grows wings: environmental induction of winged dispersal males in Cardiocondyla ants Journal Article

Author(s): Cremer, Sylvia; Heinze, Jürgen
Article Title: Stress grows wings: environmental induction of winged dispersal males in Cardiocondyla ants
Abstract: Dispersal is advantageous, but, at the same time, it implies high costs and risks. Due to these counteracting selection pressures, many species evolved dispersal polymorphisms, which, in ants, are typically restricted to the female sex (queens). Male polymorphism is presently only known from a few genera, such as Cardiocondyla, in which winged dispersing males coexist with wingless fighter males that mate exclusively inside their maternal nests. We studied the developmental mechanisms underlying these alternative male morphs and found that, first, male dimorphism is not genetically determined, but is induced by environmental conditions (decreasing temperature and density). Second, male morph is not yet fixed at the egg stage, but it differentiates during larval development. This flexible developmental pattern of male morphs allows Cardiocondyla ant colonies to react quickly to changes in their environment. Under good conditions, they invest exclusively in philopatric wingless males. But, when environmental conditions turn bad, colonies start to produce winged dispersal males, even though these males require a many times higher investment by the colony than their much smaller wingless counterparts. Cardiocondyla ants share this potential of optimal resource allocation with other colonial animals and some seed dimorphic plants.
Keywords: Adaptation; Animal Male Reproduction/physiology Sex Characteristics Wing/physiology; Physiological/physiology Animals Ants/anatomy & histology/ growth & development/physiology Environment Evolution Female Flight
Journal Title: Current Biology
Volume: 13
Issue 3
ISSN: 0960-9822
Publisher: Cell Press  
Date Published: 2003-02-04
Start Page: 219
End Page: 223
DOI: 10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00012-5
Open access: no