Explaining the evolution of multiple mating is a challenge because of the associated costs. For social insects, mating frequency may have fitness consequences due to effects on social interactions or genetic diversity within colonies. Here, we investigated the evolution of mating frequency in a social insect species with a unique genetic system that requires multiple mating. In certain populations of Pogonomyrmex harvester ants, there are two interbreeding yet genetically distinct mitochondrial lineages. Queens must mate with males of the opposite lineage to produce workers and with males of the same lineage to produce reproductive females. We expected queens of the dependent-lineage system to exhibit high mating frequencies relative to other social insects. Furthermore, we expected queens from populations of highly asymmetric lineage ratios to exhibit even higher mating frequencies, to adequately sample the population and successfully mate with males of the less common lineage. To test these predictions, we estimated the mating frequency of 16 P. barbatus queens, and compared these mating frequencies between two populations, one with relatively equal lineage ratio (60:40) and a second with a highly asymmetrical lineage ratio (96:4). Overall, observed mating frequency exceeded 10, which is high in comparison to other social insects, and our estimates of effective mating frequency were among the highest of Pogonomyrmex species. Mating frequency at the site with the asymmetrical lineage ratio was also significantly higher than the site with the more even ratio. Our results suggest that obligate multiple mating as well as lineage ratio contribute to the evolution of high mating frequency in dependent-lineage populations.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/omar-eldakar/13/