Six-legged Snow Whites: a comment on Nehring et al.

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Social insect queens are a classic example of polyphenism, with a phenotype focused on reproduction generated by the same genome that produces their sterile sister workers. Recently, it was reported that wingless virgin queens of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants assume worker roles when they fail to disperse and found new colonies [1]. This was interpreted as the (re-)evolution of worker behaviour, resulting in inclusive fitness benefits, with the authors suggesting that this was the first observation of such behaviour in queens of species with single-queen colonies and a dispersal-based mating flight [1]. However, worker-like behaviour in virgin wingless queens has been previously reported in two other species of Acromyrmex [2] and in the seed-harvesting ant Messor andrei [3], all of which share these colony characteristics. These previous reports shed more light on this unusual behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Biology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2012

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