Genetic structure of Polistes dominulus foundress associations
Strassmann, Joan E.; Queller, David C.
Doctor of Philosophy
Kin-selection theory states that individuals can increase their total fitness both through direct reproduction and through reproduction of relatives. The recently developed social contract theory asserts that dominant females should yield some direct reproduction to the subordinates in order to keep them in the colony. The theory predicts that a dominant will cede more reproduction to an unrelated subordinate than to a related subordinate since it will take more to keep her. I found that the social wasp, Polistes dominulus, is unusual in that foundresses regularly nest with non-relatives, even when relatives are available on other nests. This offers the opportunity to test one of the basic predictions of social contract theory, that reproductive skew increases as relatedness among co-foundresses increases. Subordinates of the collected colonies did get a small fraction of direct reproduction, but there was no difference in skew among colonies with different co-foundress relatednesses, contrary to skew theory predictions. Subordinates's relatedness to the queen does not affect colony efficiency. This study found no sign of either higher cooperation in colonies with more related females or greater conflicts in colonies founded by unrelated females.