In social Hymenoptera, within-colony relatedness is usually high due to the haplodiploid sex-determining system. However, factors such as the presence of multiple reproductive queens (polygyny), multiple queen matings (polyandry) or worker reproduction result in decreased relatedness among workers and the brood they rear, and consequently dilute their inclusive fitness benefits from helping. Here, we investigated population genetic structure, mating system, worker reproduction and parthenogenesis in the desert ant Cataglyphis sabulosa. Analysis of worker genotypes showed that colonies are headed by a single queen, mated with 1-5 males. The inbreeding coefficient within colonies and the levels of relatedness between the queens and their mates were positive, indicating that mating occurs between related individuals. Moreover, the mates of a queen are on average related and contribute equally to worker production. Our analyses also indicate that colonies are genetically differentiated and form a population exhibiting no isolation-by-distance pattern, consistent with the independent foundation of new colonies (that is, without the help of workers). Finally, both ovarian dissections and genetic data on the parentage of males show that workers do not reproduce in queenright colonies; however, they lay both haploid (arrhenotokous males) and diploid (thelytokous females) eggs in queenless colonies. In contrast to the congeneric species C. cursor, where new queens are produced by thelytokous parthenogenesis, female sexuals of C. sabulosa result from classical sexual reproduction.
- Social organization