Triploid Females and Diploid Males: Underreported Phenomena in Polistes Wasps?

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Insectes Sociaux


wasps, paper wasps, wasp breeding, impotence, diploid, triploid, genetics, insects, insect behavior, entomology

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In hymenopteran species, males are usually haploid and females diploid. However, in species that have complementary sex determination (CSD), diploid males arise when a female produces offspring that are homozygous at the sex-determining locus. Although diploid males are often sterile, in some species they have been shown to produce diploid sperm, thus producing triploid daughters if they mate successfully. Diploid males have been observed in very few species of social wasps, and we know of no published reports of triploid females. In this paper, we review the existing literature on diploid males and triploid females in the Hymenoptera, and report the observation of triploid females in three species of Polistes paper wasps. Although polyploid offspring may be produced parthenogenetically, the more likely scenario is that Polistes wasps have CSD and produce diploid males via homozygosity at the sex-determining locus. Therefore, female triploidy indicates that diploid males do exist in Polistes species where they are presumed to be absent, and are likely to be even more frequent among species that have experienced a genetic bottleneck. We conclude by cautioning against the assumption of a selective advantage to the production of early males, and by discussing the implications of male diploidy and female triploidy for measurement of sex ratio investment and assumptions of reproductive skew theory.

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