Abilities to discriminate among kin and non-kin are common among social insects. These abilities are used for defense of colony resources, and also hypothesized as a facilitating mechanism for kin selection. Recent work in ants has suggested that nestmate recognition abilities have a genetic basis, specifically in species that have complex social structures such as polydomy and polygyny. Increasing evidence shows that Reticulitermes species from California also have complex social structures and well developed recognition abilities. Using a combination of genetic and behavioral methods, I examine if there is a genetic basis for recognition cues in two species of
Reticulitermes from California. I show that nestmate recognition abilities vary according to colony using an aggression bioassay; some colonies are passive and some are aggressive. I then analyze population and colony genetic structure using microsatellite DNA markers to examine how social structure varies in these species. Finally, I examine if variation in population and colony genetic structure has a relationship with variation in aggression. Do measures of genetic structure among colonies, such as relatedness, correlate with aggression score among colonies, suggesting a genetic basis for recognition cues?
Species 1: Isoptera Rhinotermitidae Reticulitermes hesperus (Western Subterranean Termite)
Keywords: microsatellites, defensive behavior
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