Polygyne (multiple queen) colony social organization in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta Buren is always associated with the presence of a particular class of alleles at the gene Gp-9. We used diagnostic polymerase chain reaction assays capable of distinguishing these alleles to determine the location of polygyne populations in the native South American range of this species. We found that polygyny occurs in a mosaic pattern with respect to the more common monogyne (single queen) social form, a pattern superficially similar to that seen in the introduced range in the United States. However, polygyny appears to be relatively restricted in its geographical prevalence in the native range compared with the introduced range. This difference may stem from higher dispersal rates in the introduced range, which are associated with greater opportunities for human-mediated transport of mated queens or colony fragments. On the basis of our distributional data and results from other studies, the southern part of the native range of S. invicta, particularly northeastern Argentina, is emerging as the most likely geographic source of the founders of the U.S. population.
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Vol. 96 • No. 6