Seminal fluid mediates ejaculate competition in social insects

doi: 10.1126/science.1184709


Queens of ants and bees normally obtain a lifetime supply of sperm on a single day of sexual activity and sperm competition is expected to occur in lineages where queens receive sperm from multiple males. We compared singly-mated (monandrous) and multiply-mated (polyandrous) sister groups of ants and bees and show that seminal fluid of polyandrous species has a more positive effect on the survival of a male's own sperm than on other males' sperm. This difference was not observed in the monandrous species, suggesting that incapacitation of competing sperm may have independently evolved in both bees and ants. In Atta leafcutter ants the negative effect of the seminal fluid of other males was negated by secretion from the queen sperm-storage organ, suggesting that queens may control ejaculate competition after sperm storage.

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