Original Article

Heredity (2007) 99, 443–451; doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6801022; published online 4 July 2007

Population structure and colony composition of two Zootermopsis nevadensis subspecies

B T Aldrich1,2 and S Kambhampati1

1Department of Entomology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA

Correspondence: Dr S Kambhampati, Department of Entomology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA. E-mail: srini@ksu.edu

2Current address: Department of Anesthesia, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.

Received 6 February 2007; Revised 15 May 2007; Accepted 28 May 2007; Published online 4 July 2007.



Understanding the origin and maintenance of eusociality in termites has proved problematic, in part, due to a lack of knowledge concerning the variability and evolutionary changes in termite breeding structure. One way to address this is to compare the population genetics of a broad range of termite species. However, few studies have investigated the population genetics of basal termite taxa. We used 12 polymorphic microsatellite loci to characterize and compare the colony genetic structure of 18 colonies of two basal termite subspecies, Zootermopsis nevadensis nevadensis and Zootermopsis nevadensis nuttingi. The average relatedness (r) among individuals within a colony was high (0.59) and similar to values reported for other termite species. Average relatedness between colony founders was lower (0.21) suggesting the alates outbreed. Genotypes of workers and soldiers in 4 out of the 18 colonies were consistent with reproduction by a single pair of primary reproductives and the remaining colonies were inferred to have been derived from more than two reproductives. Eleven colonies with three or more reproductives were consistent with replacement reproductives (neotenics) and the remaining three colonies included genetic contribution from three or more primary reproductives. Comparisons between the subspecies revealed significant differences in breeding structure, specifically in the number and types of reproductives (that is, primaries or neotenics). Furthermore, we observed a larger proportion of colonies with greater than three primary reproductives compared to more derived termite lineages. Thus, our results suggest that breeding structure can vary significantly among termite taxa.


Zootermopsis, microsatellites, relatedness, termites, colony composition