Comparative Biochemical Genetics of Three Fire Ant Species in North America, with Special Reference to the Two Social Forms of Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)
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An electrophoretic study of the genetics of three fire ant species in North America was undertaken with the primary objective of further clarifying the genetic relationship between two social forms of Solenopsis invicta. Such social forms are common in many groups of ants and may, in some cases, represent significant intermediate stages in the speciation process. The monogyne and polygyne forms of S. invicta, while differing in a number of important biological traits, are genetically indistinguishable, in contrast to the substantial genetic differentiation observed between S. invicta and a second, closely related, introduced species, S. richteri. The native fire ant, S. geminata, is genetically the most distinct of the three species studied, in accord with its taxonomic placement in a different species complex. Hypotheses concerning the derivation of the polygyne form of S. invicta from the monogyne form which invoke their long-term reproductive isolation in South America and separate introductions to North America appear unfounded. Although S. invicta and S. richteri are known to hybridize in North America, our study provided no evidence of gene introgression between S. invicta and the native species, S. geminata, in areas where our samples were collected. Analyses of population structure in S. invicta failed to reveal significant differentiation of populations or local inbreeding. Levels of genetic diversity in the three species studied, although not significantly different, were in the order predicted from knowledge of the population biology and recent history of the taxa, with S. richteri exhibiting the least diversity, S. geminata the greatest, and S. invicta having an intermediate level.
author list (cited authors)
Ross, K. G., Vargo, E. L., & Fletcher, D.