All social insects live in highly organized societies. However, different social insect species display striking variation in social structure. This variation can significantly affect the genetic structure within populations and, consequently, the divergence between species. The purpose of this study was to determine if variation in social structure was associated with species diversification in the Camponotus festinatus desert carpenter ant species complex. We used polymorphic DNA microsatellite markers to dissect the breeding system of these ants and to determine if distinct C. festinatus forms hybridized in their natural range. Our analysis of single-queen colonies established in the laboratory revealed that queens typically mated with only a single male. The genotypes of workers sampled from a field population suggested that multiple, related queens occasionally reproduced within colonies and that colonies inhabited multiple nests. Camponotus festinatus workers derived from colonies of the same form originating at different locales were strongly differentiated, suggesting that gene flow was geographically restricted. Overall, our data indicate that C. festinatus populations are highly structured. Distinct C. festinatus forms possess similar social systems but are genetically isolated. Consequently, our data suggest that diversification in the C. festinatus species complex is not necessarily associated with a shift in social structure.
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Vol. 59 • No. 10