In a majority of ants, a newly mated queen independently founds a colony and claustrally raises her first brood without foraging outside the nest. During claustral independent colony foundation (ICF) in several ants, the esophagus of the founding queen expands and develops into a “thoracic crop,” which is then filled with a liquid substrate for larval feeding. It has been suggested that these substrates are converted from the founding queen's body reserves (e.g., histolyzed flight muscles) or redistributed from a gastral crop. Here, we describe thoracic crop development in Lasius japonicus queens during claustral ICF. The foundresses claustrally feed their larvae from weeks 2–5 after ICF onset, and the first worker emerges at week 6. The development proceeds as follows: in week 0, the foundress' dorsal esophageal wall is pleated and thickened. Then, from weeks 2–5, the esophagus expands toward a dorsal space previously occupied by flight muscles, following flight muscle histolysis. Gastral crop expansion follows esophageal expansion. Thus, thoracic crop formation may be spatiotemporally coordinated with flight muscle histolysis in Lasius japonicus queens, and similar developmental regulations might be common in other claustral ICF ants.
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