Male competition in Cardiocondyla ants

J. Heinze, B. Hölldobler, K. Yamauchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


The two types of males in the ant genus Cardiocondyla differ remarkably in morphology and behavior. Ergatoid males are wingless fighters whose spermatogenesis continues throughout their entire adult lives and which therefore have an 'unlimited' sperm supply. They attempt to kill all eclosing ergatoid rivals and thus to increase their share in copulations with the virgin queens reared in their nests. Winged males, on the other hand, are docile and emigrate from the nests a few days after eclosion, probably to mate with queens from other colonies. By this time, their testes have fully degenerated and all sperm is stored in the seminal vesicles. Before emigration, winged males may mate with virgin queens in their maternal nests, but they are nevertheless rarely attacked by ergatoid males. In the laboratory, the life expectancy of ergatoid males is only slightly higher than that of winged males, but because of the emigration of the latter the difference is likely to be more pronounced in the field. Both male morphs are capable of inseminating more than 35 virgin queens. However, winged males older than 14 days mate less often than ergatoid males of similar age, probably due to sperm depletion in later life. The spermathecae of queens inseminated by ergatoid males contained significantly more sperm than those of queens which mated with winged males. We discuss the evolution of intranidal mating and male polymorphism in ants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-246
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Alternative behaviors
  • Intranidal mating
  • Polymorphism
  • Reproductive tactics
  • Spermatogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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