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Thread: Maintaining Genetic Diversity in Social Insects

  1. #1 Maintaining Genetic Diversity in Social Insects 
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    Hello, I have a relatively basic question concerning the maintenance of genetic diversity within species of social insects.

    Unless my understanding of colony life cycles in incorrect, the life of a social insect colony boils down to something like this:

    1) A fertile female mates with a fertile male from her own colony and then migrates to a new location where she begins a new nest.

    2) This newly-fertilized female, or "queen," lays eggs in her nest which give rise to infertile working females, fertile females, and fertile males.

    3) When the time comes to carry on the colony's legacy, one of the fertile females will select an eligible male with which she will mate, reproduce, and thus repeat the cycle.

    This may seem simple enough to comprehend, but what is causing me so much confusion is the simple fact that during each generation a female mates with her brother.

    How are social insects able to carry out this process generation after generation without suffering from extreme inbreeding and is there no colony-colony interaction of any kind which sustains genetic diversity among the given species? How can a colony of wasps even be placed within the same species as other colonies if there is no reproductive interaction of any sort between the two?

    If somebody would help me to make sense of these paradoxes or correct any flaws in my notions of insect biology, I would appreciate your help! Thanks!


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  3. #2  
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    Some species periodically outbreed. What species do you have in mind?


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  4. #3  
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    This is from the Wikipedia article on western honeybees
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_honey_bee
    After several days of orientation within and around the hive, the young queen flies to a drone congregation point - a site near a clearing and generally about 30 feet (9.1 m) above the ground where the drones from different hives tend to congregate in a swirling aerial mass. Drones detect the presence of a queen in their congregation area by her smell, and then find her by sight and mate with her in midair (drones can be induced to mate with "dummy" queens if they have the queen pheromone applied). A queen will mate multiple times and may leave to mate several days in a row, weather permitting, until her spermatheca is full.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Some species periodically outbreed. What species do you have in mind?
    I figured that most social insects had similar reproductive behavior, but how about the members of the red imported fire ants?
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    This is from the Wikipedia article on western honeybees
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_honey_bee
    After several days of orientation within and around the hive, the young queen flies to a drone congregation point - a site near a clearing and generally about 30 feet (9.1 m) above the ground where the drones from different hives tend to congregate in a swirling aerial mass. Drones detect the presence of a queen in their congregation area by her smell, and then find her by sight and mate with her in midair (drones can be induced to mate with "dummy" queens if they have the queen pheromone applied). A queen will mate multiple times and may leave to mate several days in a row, weather permitting, until her spermatheca is full.
    Thanks a lot! That makes sense. I thought there had to be some way they interacted with other colonies.
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