Genetic determination of the queen caste in an ant hybrid zone

Glennis E. Julian, Jennifer Fewell, Juergen Gadau, Robert A. Johnson, Debbie Larrabee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


The question of how reproductives and sterile workers differentiate within eusocial groups has long been a core issue in socio-biology because it requires the loss of individual direct fitness in favor of indirect or group-level fitness gains. The evolution of social behavior requires that differentiation between workers and female reproductives be environmentally determined, because genetically determined sterility would be quickly eliminated. Nevertheless, we report clear evidence of genetic caste determination in populations of two seed harvester ant species common to the southwestern USA, Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Pogonomyrmex barbatus. The genetic differentiation between workers and queens is found only in areas of sympatry of the two species, and thus appears to arisen from hybridization. Our data suggest that this hybridization has had a profound historical effect on the caste determination systems and mating patterns of each of these species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8157-8160
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 11 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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