Journal Article Facultative parthenogenesis in the Ryukyu drywood termite Neotermes koshunensis

Kobayashi, Kazuya  ,  Miyaguni, Yasushi

62016-07-28 , Nature Publishing Group
Parthenogenesis is a relatively rare reproductive mode in nature compared to sex. In social insects, the evolution of parthenogenesis has a notable impact on their life histories. Some termites with parthenogenetic ability produce numerous non-dispersing supplementary queens asexually, whereas other castes are produced via sexual reproduction. This asexual queen succession (AQS) system is adaptive because hundreds of the asexual queens improve the reproductive potential of the colony and maintain the genetic diversity within the colony. However, the evolutionary process of the AQS system remains unclear because parthenogenetic species without this system are unknown. Here, we report facultative parthenogenesis in the drywood termite Neotermes koshunensis. Although the eggs produced by females isolated from males hatched, the hatching rate of those eggs was lower than that of the eggs produced by females kept with males. These parthenogenetic offspring inherited only the maternal alleles and showed high homozygosity, which indicates that the mechanism of ploidy restoration is terminal fusion. A previous study showed that most colonies of this species have a single queen or orphan; thus, the AQS system has not evolved despite their parthenogenetic ability. Further investigations of N. koshunensis will reveal how parthenogenesis evolved and its role in the insect societies.

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