No evidence for an inbreeding avoidance system in the bumble bee Bombus terrestris
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Inbreeding is caused by the mating of closely related individuals and may produce a decrease in the fitness of offspring and have deleterious consequences for adults. In haplodiploid social Hymenoptera inbreeding has a further negative effect due to the production of unviable or sterile diploid males. As a consequence, mechanisms of inbreeding avoidance would be expected to evolve. In this study, we investigated the mating choice between related (inbred) or unrelated (outbred) gynes and males of Bombus terrestris reared in laboratory conditions by performing cage and tunnel experiments. Not only did we find no mating preference for related or unrelated partners (mating success 41.55 ± 3.7 and 39.69 ± 4.4%, respectively), but the mating latency was even shorter in inbred (6.97 ± 0.6 min) than in outbred matings (8.74 ± 0.8 min). We hypothesize that in wild populations of B. terrestris, the lack of incest avoidance could be compensated by tolerance of high levels of inbreeding.
KeywordsBombus terrestris inbreeding incest avoidance kin recognition mating preference
This work was carried out as part of the Life+ Project PP-ICON (Plant-Pollinator CONservation approach: a demonstrative proposal—LIFE09/NAT/IT000212), funded by the European Union. We thank Bioplanet s.c.a. for supplying the colonies, Mariachiara Zanichelli and Luca Galeotti for helping with bumble bee rearing, and Dr. Fabio Sgolastra for the precious help with statistics. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for comments on an early version of the manuscript.
GB and LB conceived this research and designed experiments; GB, NdM, AF, MG, and LB participated in the design and interpretation of the data; GB, LB, NdM, and LZ carried out experiments and analysis; GB, NdM, AF, MG, LZ, and LB wrote the paper and participated in the revisions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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