Reproductive conflicts in the social wasp, Eustenogaster fraterna, and in the social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum
Strassmann, Joan E.; Queller, David C.
Doctor of Philosophy
My dissertation encompasses three studies of social behavior. Two explore the reproductive conflicts that occur between cooperating individuals. I examine conflict at two levels: within colonies of the social wasp, Eustenogaster fraterna, and within chimeric multicellular organisms formed by the social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum. The third project investigates the occurrence of sexual reproduction in a natural population of D. discoideum. Eustenogaster fraterna belongs to the basal eusocial family of stenogastrine wasps. Colonies are small averaging only 2.7 adult females but only one mated female. I examined the reproductive and genetic structure of 18 colonies by genotyping all within-colony individuals and assessing the ovarian development of females. My results show that 85% of females were potential reproducers. Adult females were not related as full sisters. Some brood could not be assigned to any of the adult females, suggesting that subordinate females could inherit the nest and replace the dominant female. D. discoideum live as free-living, single cells, but when starved they aggregate to form a multicellular fruiting body. Genetically distinct clones of D. discoideum co-aggregate to form genetic chimeras. 20% of cells form the stalk of the fruiting body and die, while others become reproductive spores. One clone can exploit the other by contributing less than its proportional share to the sterile stalk. I investigated whether cheating is a strategy dependent on the relative proportion of the clones aggregating. In a chimera, a rare clone could benefit by avoiding forming the stalk because it is less related to the reproductive part. My results do not support the frequency-dependence strategy. I investigated the occurrence of sexual reproduction in a natural population of D. discoideum, using the approach of estimating linkage disequilibrium in the population at one site. My results show that recombination does occur and is due to sexual reproduction not to parasexuality. In sum, conflicts within societies can be mitigated. E. fraterna workers gain insurance advantages by obtaining indirect genetic benefits or inheritance of work force. D. discoideum clones gain cheating advantages either when rare or common in the aggregation. Recombination yields novel genotypes; this might increase the complexity of interactions between co-aggregating clones.