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.

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 August 1, 2014 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 August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

AFP (Aug. 1, 2014) The discovery of a bear cub in the Pyrenees mountains made headlines in April 2014. Despire several attempts to find the animal's mother, the cub remained alone. Now, the Pyrenees Conservation Foundation has constructed an enclosure. Duration: 00:31 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Health officials are working to fast-track a vaccine — the West-African Ebola outbreak has killed more than 700. But why didn't we already have one? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Previous studies have made the link between birth control and breast cancer, but the latest makes the link to high-estrogen oral contraceptives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

AP (Aug. 1, 2014) A rare whale fossil has been pulled from a Southern California backyard. The 16- to 17-million-year-old baleen whale fossil is one of about 20 baleen whale fossils known to exist. (Aug. 1) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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