Sex determination in the hymenoptera

Annu Rev Entomol. 2008;53:209-30. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.53.103106.093441.


The dominant and ancestral mode of sex determination in the Hymenoptera is arrhenotokous parthenogenesis, in which diploid females develop from fertilized eggs and haploid males develop from unfertilized eggs. We discuss recent progress in the understanding of the genetic and cytoplasmic mechanisms that make arrhenotoky possible. The best-understood mode of sex determination in the Hymenoptera is complementary sex determination (CSD), in which diploid males are produced under conditions of inbreeding. The gene mediating CSD has recently been cloned in the honey bee and has been named the complementary sex determiner. However, CSD is only known from 4 of 21 hymenopteran superfamilies, with some taxa showing clear evidence of the absence of CSD. Sex determination in the model hymenopteran Nasonia vitripennis does not involve CSD, but it is consistent with a form of genomic imprinting in which activation of the female developmental pathway requires paternally derived genes. Some other hymenopterans are not arrhenotokous but instead exhibit thelytoky or paternal genome elimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Genomic Imprinting / genetics
  • Hymenoptera / genetics
  • Hymenoptera / physiology*
  • Male
  • Parthenogenesis / physiology
  • Sex Determination Processes*