Sexual cooperation: mating increases longevity in ant queens

Curr Biol. 2005 Feb 8;15(3):267-70. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2005.01.036.


Divergent reproductive interests of males and females often cause sexual conflict . Males of many species manipulate females by transferring seminal fluids that boost female short-term fecundity while decreasing their life expectancy and future reproductivity . The life history of ants, however, is expected to reduce sexual conflict; whereas most insect females show repeated phases of mating and reproduction, ant queens mate only during a short period early in life and undergo a lifelong commitment to their mates by storing sperm . Furthermore, sexual offspring can only be reared after a sterile worker force has been built up . Therefore, the males should also profit from a long female lifespan. In the ant Cardiocondyla obscurior, mating indeed has a positive effect on the lifetime reproductive success of queens. Queens that mated to either one fertile or one sterilized male lived considerably longer and started laying eggs earlier than virgin queens. Only queens that received viable sperm from fertile males showed increased fecundity. The lack of a trade-off between fecundity and longevity is unexpected, given evolutionary theories of aging . Our data instead reveal the existence of sexual cooperation in ants.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*