Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fungus farming ant genome reveals insight into adaptation of social behavior

Date:
June 29, 2011
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
The development of agriculture was a significant event in human cultural evolution, but we are not the only organisms to have adopted an agricultural way of life. Researchers have now sequenced the genome of a fungus farming leaf-cutting ant, revealing new insights into the genetics and molecular biology behind this unusual lifestyle.

The development of agriculture was a significant event in human cultural evolution, but we are not the only organisms to have adopted an agricultural way of life. In a study published online June 29 in Genome Research, researchers have sequenced the genome of a fungus farming leaf-cutting ant, revealing new insights into the genetics and molecular biology behind this unusual lifestyle.

Found in Central and South America as well as the southern United States, leaf-cutting ants have evolved a symbiotic relationship with fungus. By breaking down leaves into mulch, the ants help the fungus to grow special structures for large societies of ants to feed upon.

Since being recognized as a new Panamanian species about 15 years ago, much has been learned about the biology of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior, but the genetic basis of their farming lifestyle remained largely unknown. In this report, an international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of A. echinatior, and by comparison to other ant and insect genomes, identified genomic clues to the evolution of fungus farming behavior.

The authors noted that one of the most interesting findings in the genome of this leaf-cutting ant was that there are more genes in two particularly noteworthy gene families. "Based on their function in other organisms, we expect them to be involved in mating system adaptations and symbiotic food processing with the fungus," said Dr. Sanne Nygaard of the Copenhagen Centre for Social Evolution, co-lead author of the study.

Nygaard explained that these findings are especially fascinating because known evolutionary changes in the reproductive biology and farming lifestyle of these ants can now be linked to specific genomic features.

The authors also noted a particularly surprising result when comparing genes coding for neuropeptides, the small molecules that drive many biological processes, between the leaf-cutting ant and the sequenced genes of other ants with varied habitats, diets, and behaviors. They expected that differences in neuropeptide genes would be pronounced, but they found just the opposite.

"An identical set of neuropeptide genes is present in all the ant genomes we examined," said Nygaard, "showing that these genes are remarkably conserved." The authors suggest that the neuroendocrinology of all ants may have a very similar make-up, going back to the dawn of social evolution in the ancestor of all present ants.

"We are as yet only scratching the surface of the fascinating adaptations that will likely be revealed in the coming years," added Dr. Jacobus Boomsma, Director of the Copenhagen Centre for Social Evolution and co-senior author of the report, explaining that the genome sequence and analysis performed here will set the stage for further insights into the biology of social behavior.

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark), BGI-Shenzhen (Shenzhen, China), the University of Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland), and the Natural History Museum of Denmark (Copenhagen, Denmark) contributed to this study.

This work was supported by the Danish National Research Foundation, the Danish Research Agency, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and the Swiss National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nygaard S, Zhang G, Schiψtt M, Li C, Wurm Y, Hu H, Zhou J, Ji L, Qiu F, Rasmussen M, Pan H, Hauser F, Krogh A, Grimmelikhuijzen CJP, Wang J, Boomsma JJ. The genome of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior suggests key adaptations to advanced social life and fungus farming. Genome Res, June 30, 2011 DOI: 10.1101/gr.121392.111

Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Fungus farming ant genome reveals insight into adaptation of social behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110629181847.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2011, June 29). Fungus farming ant genome reveals insight into adaptation of social behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110629181847.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Fungus farming ant genome reveals insight into adaptation of social behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110629181847.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) — Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) — The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
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