Thelytokous parthenogenesis in eusocial hymenoptera

Christian Rabeling, Daniel J.C. Kronauer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Female parthenogenesis, or thelytoky, is particularly common in solitary Hymenoptera. Only more recently has it become clear that many eusocial species also regularly reproduce thelytokously, and here we provide a comprehensive overview. Especially in ants, thelytoky underlies a variety of idiosyncratic life histories with unique evolutionary and ecological consequences. In all eusocial species studied, thelytoky probably has a nuclear genetic basis and the underlying cytological mechanism retains high levels of heterozygosity. This is in striking contrast to many solitary wasps, in which thelytoky is often induced by cytoplasmic bacteria and results in an immediate loss of heterozygosity. These differences are likely related to differences in haplodiploid sex determination mechanisms, which in eusocial species usually require heterozygosity for female development. At the same time, haplodiploidy might account for important preadaptations that can help explain the apparent ease with which Hymenoptera transition between sexual and asexual reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-292
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 7 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • apomixis
  • arrhenotoky
  • automixis
  • clonality
  • sex determination
  • thelytoky

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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