Diploid Males and Their Triploid Offspring in the Paper Wasp Polistes dominulus

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Biology letters


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

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Although the hymenopteran sex-determining mechanism generally results in haploid males and diploid females, diploid males can be produced via homozygosity at the sex-determining locus. Diploid males have low fitness because they are effectively sterile or produce presumably sterile triploid offspring. Previously, triploid females were observed in three species of North American Polistes paper wasps, and this was interpreted as indirect evidence of diploid males. Here we report what is, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence: four of five early male-producing Polistes dominulus nests from three populations contained diploid males. Because haploid males were also found, however, the adaptive value of early males cannot be ignored. Using genetic and morphological data from triploid females, we also present evidence that both diploid males and triploid females remain undetected throughout the colony cycle. Consequently, diploid male production may result in a delayed fitness cost for two generations. This phenomenon is particularly relevant for introduced populations with few alleles at the sex-determining locus, but cannot be ignored in native populations without supporting genetic data. Future research using paper wasp populations to test theories of social evolution should explicitly consider the potential impacts of diploid males.