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Title: Loss of males from mixed-sex societies in termites
Authors: Yashiro, Toshihisa
Lo, Nathan
Kobayashi, Kazuya  kyouindb  KAKEN_id  orcid (unconfirmed)
Nozaki, Tomonari
Fuchikawa, Taro
Mizumoto, Nobuaki
Namba, Yusuke
Matsuura, Kenji  kyouindb  KAKEN_id  orcid (unconfirmed)
Author's alias: 矢代, 敏久
小林, 和也
野崎, 友成
渕側, 太郎
水元, 惟暁
南波, 佑介
松浦, 健二
Keywords: All-female asexual societies
Asexual social lineages
Thelytokous parthenogenesis
Sexual reproduction
Advanced social animals
Social insects
Issue Date: 25-Sep-2018
Publisher: Springer Nature America, Inc
Journal title: BMC Biology
Volume: 16
Thesis number: 96
Abstract: Background: Sexual reproduction is the norm in almost all animal species, and in many advanced animal societies, both males and females participate in social activities. To date, the complete loss of males from advanced social animal lineages has been reported only in ants and honey bees (Hymenoptera), whose workers are always female and whose males display no helping behaviors even in normal sexual species. Asexuality has not previously been observed in colonies of another major group of social insects, the termites, where the ubiquitous presence of both male and female workers and soldiers indicate that males play a critical role beyond that of reproduction. Results: Here, we report asexual societies in a lineage of the termite Glyptotermes nakajimai. We investigated the composition of mature colonies from ten distinct populations in Japan, finding six asexual populations characterized by a lack of any males in the reproductive, soldier, and worker castes of their colonies, an absence of sperm in the spermathecae of their queens, and the development of unfertilized eggs at a level comparable to that for the development of fertilized eggs in sexual populations of this species. Phylogenetic analyses indicated a single evolutionary origin of the asexual populations, with divergence from sampled sexual populations occurring about 14 million years ago. Asexual colonies differ from sexual colonies in having a more uniform head size in their all-female soldier caste, and fewer soldiers in proportion to other individuals, suggesting increased defensive efficiencies arising from uniform soldier morphology. Such efficiencies may have contributed to the persistence and spread of the asexual lineage. Cooperative colony foundation by multiple queens, the single-site nesting life history common to both the asexual and sexual lineages, and the occasional development of eggs without fertilization even in the sexual lineage are traits likely to have been present in the ancestors of the asexual lineage that may have facilitated the transition to asexuality.Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that completely asexual social lineages can evolve from mixed-sex termite societies, providing evidence that males are dispensable for the maintenance of advanced animal societies in which they previously played an active social role.
Description: 世界で初めて「性を失った」シロアリを発見 --シロアリの常識を覆すメスだけの社会--. 京都大学プレスリリース. 2018-10-03.
Rights: © Yashiro et al. 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
DOI(Published Version): 10.1186/s12915-018-0563-y
PubMed ID: 30249269
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