Androgenesis is the production of an offspring containing exclusively the nuclear genome of the fathering male via the maternal eggs. This unusual mating system is generally considered a male trait, giving to androgenetic males a substantial fitness advantage over their sexually reproducing relatives. We here provide the first empirical study of the evolutionary outcomes of androgenesis in a haplo-diploid organism: the invasive ant Wasmannia auropunctata. Some of the populations of this species have a classical haplo-diploid sexual mating system. In other populations, females and males are produced through parthenogenesis and androgenesis, respectively, whereas workers are produced sexually. We conducted laboratory reciprocal-cross experiments with reproductive individuals from both types of populations and analysed their progenies with genetic markers, to determine the respective contribution of males and females to the production of androgenetic males. We found that androgenesis was a parthenogenetic female trait. A population genetic study conducted in natura confirmed the parthenogenetic female origin of androgenesis, with the identification of introgression events of sexual male genotypes into androgenetic/parthenogenetic lineages. We argue that by producing males via androgenesis, parthenogenetic queen lineages may increase and/or maintain their adaptive potential, while maintaining the integrity of their own genome, by occasionally acquiring new male genetic material and avoiding inbreeding depression within the sexually produced worker cast.
Keywords: Wasmannia auropunctata; androgenesis; maternal trait; parthenogenesis; sexual conflict.