The social supergene dates back to the speciation time of two Solenopsis fire ant species

Pnina Cohen, Eyal Privman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colony social organization of multiple Solenopsis fire ant species is determined by a supergene with two haplotypes SB and Sb, which are similar to X/Y sex chromosomes. The ancestral monogyne (single-queen) social form has been associated with homozygous SB/SB queens, while queens in colonies with the derived polygyne (multi-queen) social structure are heterozygous SB/Sb. By comparing 14 Solenopsis invicta genomes and the outgroup S. fugax, we dated the formation of the supergene to 1.1 (0.7–1.6) million years ago, much older than previous estimates, and close to the estimated time of speciation of the two socially polymorphic species S. invicta and S. richteri. We also used 12 S. invicta and S. richteri genomes to compare the evolutionary distances between these species and the distances between the social haplotypes, and found them to be similar. A phylogenetic analysis suggested that the monophyletic Sb clade is more closely related to S. richteri SB haplotypes than to S. invicta SB haplotypes. We conclude that the formation of the supergene occurred concomitantly with the process of speciation of the Solenopsis socially-polymorphic clade, and hypothesize that the Sb variant first arouse in one incipiently-speciating population and then introgressed into the other populations or species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11538
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


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