The Influence of Genetic Diversity on Rescue Behavior in the Polyandrous Ant Cataglyphis cursor
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Ants are able to rescue their nestmates from potential harm by exhibiting behaviors that are targeted toward the specific threat. Such a threat is often an ant predator found in nature. Ants come to the aid of a nestmate in danger by detecting alarm pheromones released by a trapped ant (Nowbahari, Scohier, Durand, & Hollis 2009). Ants that engage in rescue behaviors are foraging workers, a caste of ants within a colony. The colony contains ants that specialize in performing many working tasks including nursing larvae, colony defense, and non-working tasks including colony reproduction by queens. This division of labor is influenced and moderated by environmental pressures as well as genetics (Eyer, Freter, & Aron 2012). The present study hypothesized that Cataglyphis cursor ants from different patrilines, ants of the same mother, the queen, but different fathers, vary in their inclination to perform rescue behavior. Ants were classified as rescuers and non-rescuers through a behavioral assessment in which each ant was given the opportunity to perform rescue behavior. Rescuers and non-rescuers of four colonies were genotyped at four polymorphic microsatellite loci. Results were analyzed using nominal logistic regressions to assess the influence of patrilines on rescue behavior. The present study revealed that patrilines are correlated with and account for 22% of the variation observed in ant rescue behavior. Regardless of the colony, patrilines have an effect on rescuer and non-rescuer differences. The results of this study suggest that genetics are an important factor in determining whether an ant will engage in rescue behavior or not, but other factors may also play a role in an ant’s ability to rescue. Further studies identifying the differences between environmental pressures and genetics and their effects on exhibited behaviors will provide a better understanding of what influences an ant to engage in rescue behavior.