Clonal reproduction by males and females in the little fire ant

Nature. 2005 Jun 30;435(7046):1230-4. doi: 10.1038/nature03705.


Sexual reproduction can lead to major conflicts between sexes and within genomes. Here we report an extreme case of such conflicts in the little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata. We found that sterile workers are produced by normal sexual reproduction, whereas daughter queens are invariably clonally produced. Because males usually develop from unfertilized maternal eggs in ants and other haplodiploid species, they normally achieve direct fitness only through diploid female offspring. Hence, although the clonal production of queens increases the queen's relatedness to reproductive daughters, it potentially reduces male reproductive success to zero. In an apparent response to this conflict between sexes, genetic analyses reveal that males reproduce clonally, most likely by eliminating the maternal half of the genome in diploid eggs. As a result, all sons have nuclear genomes identical to those of their father. The obligate clonal production of males and queens from individuals of the same sex effectively results in a complete separation of the male and female gene pools. These findings show that the haplodiploid sex-determination system provides grounds for the evolution of extraordinary genetic systems and new types of sexual conflict.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Ants / genetics*
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA / analysis
  • DNA / genetics
  • Diploidy
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genome
  • Genotype
  • Haploidy
  • Heredity*
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Pedigree
  • Reproduction / genetics*
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism


  • DNA