Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Caste In Ant Colonies: How Fate Is Determined Between Workers And Queens

Date:
October 25, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
In colonies of social insects the struggle for the spoils is embodied by a reproductive division of labor. Some individuals (the queens) reproduce, while large and small workers provide the labor. Larvae become different castes (small workers, large workers, or new queens) based on genetics, nutrition, and environment (colony size). However the relative importance of each factor was different for each caste.

The three female castes of the Florida harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex badius. Clockwise from the top: new queen, major worker, minor worker. Right: Minor workers of the Florida harvester ant tending pupae and larvae inside of a lab nest.
Credit: Adrian A. Smith and Chris R. Smith

"The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms…the exploitation of one part of society by the other". – Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto.

Related Articles


Although diversity in social groups can increase group well being, it also may increase the potential for conflict. All societies are characterized by struggles for control: which individuals gain the spoils and which toil in the fields. In colonies of social insects this struggle is embodied by a reproductive division of labor. Some individuals (the queens) reproduce, while the workers provide the labor that maintains colony function. In many social insects queens enjoy nearly complete control over reproduction and workers have diversified in form and function to increase their efficiency at performing different labors.

How, then, is it determined which individuals, as developing larvae, becoming queens or different types of workers?

A collaborative research team of scientists at four universities has found that caste determination in the Florida harvester ant is much more than meets the eye. Larvae become different castes (small workers, large workers, or new queens) based largely on the nutrition they receive. Those fed more insects than seeds are more likely to become larger individuals (queen>large worker>small worker). However, genetic differences also contribute and bias the larva's developmental pathway. Even once caste is determined, nutritional, social (colony size), and genetic factors all contribute, but in different ways, to how big an individual grows.

"Caste determination in most social insects likely involves both nature and nurture, but most interestingly in this species, these two forces contribute differently in different castes," says lead researcher Chris R. Smith of the University of Illinois.

Although genetic factors contribute to what caste an individual becomes, the environment of the larva is controlled by the workers. Quite generally, ant colonies are supreme examples of both conflict and cooperation – each extreme of the nature-nurture continuum.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Smith et al. Caste Determination in a Polymorphic Social Insect: Nutritional, Social, and Genetic Factors.. The American Naturalist, 2008; 172 (4): 497 DOI: 10.1086/590961

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Caste In Ant Colonies: How Fate Is Determined Between Workers And Queens." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021093944.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2008, October 25). Caste In Ant Colonies: How Fate Is Determined Between Workers And Queens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021093944.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Caste In Ant Colonies: How Fate Is Determined Between Workers And Queens." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021093944.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Florida Might Legalize Black Bear Hunting

Florida Might Legalize Black Bear Hunting

Newsy (Jan. 24, 2015) A string of black bear attacks has Florida officials considering lifting the ban on hunting the animals to control their population. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Killing Large Portion Of Ape Population

Ebola Killing Large Portion Of Ape Population

Newsy (Jan. 23, 2015) Experts estimate Ebola has wiped out one-third of the world&apos;s gorillas and chimpanzees. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Controversy Shrouds Captive Killer Whale in Miami

Controversy Shrouds Captive Killer Whale in Miami

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) Activists hope the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) will label killer whales endangered, allowing lawyers to sue a Miami aquarium to release an orca into the wild after 44 years. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
‘Healthy’ Foods That Surprisingly Pack on Pounds

‘Healthy’ Foods That Surprisingly Pack on Pounds

Buzz60 (Jan. 23, 2015) Some &apos;healthy&apos; foods are actually fattening. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) shines a light on the sneaky foods like nuts, seeds, granola, trail mix, avocados, guacamole, olive oil, peanut butter, fruit juices and salads that are good for you...but not so much for your waistline. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins