Article

Sex ratio biases in termites provide evidence for kin selection

  • Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2048 (2013)
  • doi:10.1038/ncomms3048
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Abstract

Inclusive fitness theory, also known as kin selection theory, is the most general expansion of Darwin's natural selection theory. It is supported by female-biased investment by workers in the social Hymenoptera where relatedness to sisters is higher than to brothers because of haplodiploidy. However, a strong test of the theory has proven difficult in diploid social insects because they lack such relatedness asymmetry. Here we show that kin selection can result in sex ratio bias in eusocial diploids. Our model predicts that allocation will be biased towards the sex that contributes more of its genes to the next generation when sex-asymmetric inbreeding occurs. The prediction matches well with the empirical sex allocation of Reticulitermes termites where the colony king can be replaced by a queen’s son. Our findings open broad new avenues to test inclusive fitness theory beyond the well-studied eusocial Hymenoptera.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Drs K. Tsuji, L. Keller and A. Gardner for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (no. 09001407) to K.M. and J.Y. (nos 22255004 and 22370010) and the Programme for Promotion of Basic and Applied Researches for Innovations in Bio-oriented Industry to K.M.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan

    • Kazuya Kobayashi
    • , Yuuka Yamamoto
    • , Kazutaka Kawatsu
    •  & Kenji Matsuura
  2. Laboratory of Animal Ecology, Department of Ecology and Systematics, Graduate School of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Hokkaido 060-8589, Japan

    • Eisuke Hasegawa
  3. Department of Entomology and W. M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7613, USA

    • Edward L. Vargo
  4. Department of Systems Engineering, Shizuoka University, Shizuoka 432-8561, Japan

    • Jin Yoshimura
  5. Marine Biosystems Research Center, Chiba University, Chiba 299-5502, Japan

    • Jin Yoshimura
  6. Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA

    • Jin Yoshimura

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Contributions

K. Ko. and K.M. conceptualized, planned and coordinated the study; K. Ko. and J.Y. constructed the mathematical model; K.M., Y.Y., K.Ko. and K.Ka. collected and analysed the sex ratio data; K.Ko., E.H., Y.Y., E.L.V., J.Y. and K.M. wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kenji Matsuura.

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