Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 601–609 | Cite as

A new type of egg produced by foundress queens of Atta texana (Attini, Formicidae)

  • C.-C. FangEmail author
  • U. G. Mueller
Research Article


In the fungus-growing ant genus Atta, foundress queens nourish their brood and incipient fungus gardens with nutrients derived from trophic eggs. We discovered a third kind of egg laid by Atta foundresses in addition to reproductive and trophic eggs. We use fluorescent microscopy to show that this third type of eggs represents reproductive eggs that are unviable and fail to develop. Unviable reproductive eggs are somewhat larger (≈ 490 µm × 317 µm) than regular reproductive eggs (≈ 425 µm × 240 µm), but smaller than trophic eggs (≈ 640 µm × 530 µm). Trophic eggs liquify by some endogenous process within 24 h after oviposition to release nutrient contents. Unviable reproductive eggs do not liquify, but unviable reproductive eggs can be digested by the fungus, whereas reproductive eggs are not digested by the fungus to complete their development. We also report the first observation for A. texana of nanitic males (presumably diploid males) that were killed by the foundress queen shortly after the males’ eclosion.


Attine ant Fungus-growing ant Nest founding Oviposition Trophic egg 



We thank Zach Phillips, Emma Dietrich, Yao-Lun Yang for ant collection; and Ryan Bailey for colony maintenance. The study was funded by a Texas Ecolab award to CCF, a National Science Foundation award DEB-1354666 to UGM, and the W.M. Wheeler Lost Pines Endowment from the University of Texas at Austin.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (R 1 kb)
40_2019_724_MOESM2_ESM.csv (3 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (CSV 2 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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