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Faculty Profile

Diane Wiernasz

Associate Professor
Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Office: Science & Research 2, 321E
Contact: - (713) 743-2677

Education: Ph.D., Princeton Universitys

Website 2

In most species of social insects, the queen mates once; western harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis) are unusual, in that the single queen mates with 7-10 males. Therefore, the workers of a colony consist of many genetically distinct offspring (patrilines). Because multiple mating is presumed to be costly to females, multiple mating must increase female fitness in order to evolve. The field studies of Dr. Diane Wiernasz, in collaboration with Dr. Blaine Cole, have shown that colonies with higher levels of genetic diversity grow faster, survive longer, and reproduce more than colonies with low levels of genetic diversity They are examining how increased genetic diversity of a colony’s workers improves colony fitness. They use a combination of field studies in western Colorado and lab studies at UH to measure the effect of genetic diversity on important colony-level behaviors such as temporal activity, foraging and responses to infected nest mates.

  • DC Wiernasz, BJ Cole, and BA Cole. 2014. Maternal and paternal influences on mating frequency in harvester ants. Animal Behaviour 97, 87-94.
  • DC Wiernasz, BA Cole, BJ Cole. 2014. Defending the nest: variation in the alarm aggression response and nest mound damage in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Insectes sociaux 61 (3), 273-279.
  • D Lubertazzi, BJ Cole, DC Wiernasz. 2013. Competitive advantages of earlier onset of foraging in Pogonomyrmex occidentalis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 106 (1), 72-78.
  • P Abbot, J Abe, J Alcock, S Alizon, JAC Alpedrinha, M Andersson, ... 2011. Inclusive fitness theory and eusociality. Nature 471 (7339), E1-E4.
  • Blaine J. Cole, Adrian A. Smith, Zachary J. Huber, Diane C. Wiernasz. 2010. The structure of foraging activity in colonies of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Behavioral Ecology 21(2): 337-342.
  • Diane C. Wiernasz and Blaine J. Cole. 2010. Patriline shifting leads to apparent genetic caste determination in harvester ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.,107(29): 12958-12962.
  • Diane C. Wiernasz and Blaine J. Cole. 2009. Dioecy and the evolution of sex ratios in ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 209:2125-2132.
  • Diane C. Wiernasz, Jessica Hines, Dara G. Parker, Blaine J. Cole. 2008. Mating for variety increases foraging activity in the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Molecular Ecology 17:1137-1144.
  • D.C. Wiernasz, C. Perroni and Cole, B.J. 2004. Polyandry and fitness in the western harvester ant Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Molecular Ecology 13: 1601-1606.
  • D.C. Wiernasz and B.J. Cole 2003. Queen size mediates queen survival and colony fitness in harvester ants. Evolution 57 (9): 2179-2183.
  • Cole, B.J. and D.C. Wiernasz. 2002. Recruitment limitation and population density in the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Ecology 83 (5):1433-1442.
  • Billick, I., D.C. Wiernasz and B.J. Cole. 2001. Recruitment in the harvester ant, pogonomyrmex occidentalis: effects of experimental removal. Oecologia 129: (2):228-233.
  • Wiernasz, D.C., A.K. Sater, A.J. Abell, and B.J. Cole. 2001. Male size, sperm transfer, and colony fitness in the western harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Evolution 55:324-329.