Colony structure and reproduction in the thelytokous parthenogenetic ant platythyrea punctata (F. Smith) (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)

K. Schilder, J. Heinze, B. Hölldobler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


An important evolutionary characteristic of the formicine subfamily Ponerinae is the occurrence of various alternative reproductive tactics within single species. In Platythyrea punctata Smith, 1858, queens, gamergates and parthenogenetic workers co-occur in the same species. Morphological queens, both alate and dealate, were present in only 29 percent of the colonies collected in Florida, but absent from colonies collected in Barbados and Puerto Rico. One of the six queens which were dissected (three alate and three dealate) was found to be inseminated but not fertile. Instead, in most queenless colonies, a single uninseminated worker monopolized reproduction by means of thelytokous parthenogenesis, i.e., it produced female offspring from unfertilized eggs. A single mated, reproductive worker (gamergate) was found dominating reproduction in the presence of an inseminated alate queen in one of the Florida colonies. Thelytokous parthenogenesis was examined in artificial groups of virgin laboratory-reared workers, where one worker typically monopolized reproduction despite the presence of several individuals with elongated ovaries. In 16 colonies collected in Florida, a total of 66 individuals differed morphologically from queens and workers. Their thorax morphology varied from a worker-like to an almost queenlike structure. We refer to these individuals as 'intercastes' (sensu Peeters, 1991a). The remarkable complexity of reproductive strategies renders P. punctata unique within ants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-158
Number of pages9
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Colony structure
  • Gamergate
  • Intercaste
  • Ponerinae
  • Thelytokous parthenogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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