University of Sussex

File(s) not publicly available

Colony genetic diversity affects task performance in the red ant Myrmica rubra

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 00:43 authored by E J Slaa, P Chappell, William HughesWilliam Hughes
High relatedness and low genetic diversity among individuals in a group is generally considered crucial to the evolution of cooperative behaviour. However, in about a third of social insect species, intracolonial genetic diversity is increased because of derived polyandry (multiple mating by queens) and/or polygyny (multiple reproductive queens). Several studies have shown that increased intracolonial genetic diversity can enhance task performance in honey bees, but evidence of such effect in other social insects is still lacking. Why increased genetic diversity has evolved in some, but not all species, is a fundamental question in sociobiology. In this study, we investigated the effect of intracolonial genetic diversity on the task of nest migration, using the facultatively polyandrous and polygynous red ant Myrmica rubra. Genetic diversity significantly affected migration speed, but its effects were context dependent. Migration speed correlated positively with genetic diversity in one experiment in which migrations were into a known nest site, due to quicker transfer of brood into the new nest once consensus was reached. However, in a another experiment in which migration included scouting for new nest sites, migration speed correlated negatively with genetic diversity, due to slower discovery of new nest sites and slower transfer of brood into the new nest. Our results show for the first time that genetic diversity affects task performance in a social insect other than the honeybee, but that it can produce contrasting effects under different conditions.


Publication status

  • Published


Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology




Springer Verlag





Page range


Department affiliated with

  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected