Split sex ratios in the social Hymenoptera: a meta-analysis

Abstract : The study of sex allocation in social Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps) provides an excellent opportunity for testing kin-selection theory and studying conflict resolution. A queen-worker conflict over sex allocation is expected because workers are more related to sisters than to brothers, whereas queens are equally related to daughters and sons. If workers fully control sex allocation, split sex ratio theory predicts that colonies with relatively high or low relatedness asymmetry (the relatedness of workers to females divided by the relatedness of workers to males) should specialize in females or males, respectively. We performed a meta-analysis to assess the magnitude of adaptive sex allocation biasing by workers and degree of support for split sex ratio theory in the social Hymenoptera. Overall, variation in relatedness asymmetry (due to mate number or queen replacement) and variation in queen number (which also affects relatedness asymmetry in some conditions) explained 20.9% and 5% of the variance in sex allocation among colonies, respectively. These results show that workers often bias colony sex allocation in their favor as predicted by split sex ratio theory, even if their control is incomplete and a large part of the variation among colonies has other causes. The explanatory power of split sex ratio theory was close to that of local mate competition and local resource competition in the few species of social Hymenoptera where these factors apply. Hence, three of the most successful theories explaining quantitative variation in sex allocation are based on kin selection.
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Joël Meunier, Stuart West, Michel Chapuisat. Split sex ratios in the social Hymenoptera: a meta-analysis. Behavioral Ecology, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2008, 19 (2), pp.382-390. ⟨10.1093/beheco/arm143⟩. ⟨hal-02140566⟩

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