Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New 'social' chromosome discovered in the red fire ant

Date:
January 16, 2013
Source:
Queen Mary, University of London
Summary:
Researchers have discovered a social chromosome in the highly invasive fire ant that helps to explain why some colonies allow for more than one queen ant, and could offer new solutions for dealing with this pest. One of the researchers said, "Our discovery could help in developing novel pest control strategies. For example, a pesticide could artificially deactivate the genes in the social chromosome and induce social anarchy within the colony."

Fire ants.
Credit: Wild Geese / Fotolia

Researchers have discovered a social chromosome in the highly invasive fire ant that helps to explain why some colonies allow for more than one queen ant, and could offer new solutions for dealing with this pest.

The red fire ants live in two different types of colonies: some colonies strictly have a single queen while other colonies contain hundreds of queens.

Publishing in the journal Nature on January 16, scientists have discovered that this difference in social organisation is determined by a chromosome that carries one of two variants of a 'supergene' containing more than 600 genes.

The two variants, B and b, differ in structure but have evolved similarly to the X and Y chromosomes that determine the sex of humans. If the worker fire ants in a colony carry exclusively the B variant, they will accept a single BB queen, but a colony that includes worker fire ants with the b variant will accept multiple Bb queens. The scientists analysed the genomes of more than 500 red fire ants to understand this phenomenon.

"This was a very surprising discovery -- similar differences in chromosomal structure are linked to wing patterns in butterflies and to cancer in humans but this is the first supergene ever identified that determines social behaviour," explains co-author Dr Yannick Wurm, from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

"We now understand that chromosomal variants determine social form in the fire ant and it's possible that special chromosomes also determine fundamental traits such as behaviour in other species."

During the reproductive season, young winged queens from both types of colonies emerge for their mating flights and are fertilised by males. Young queens destined to establish their own single-queen colonies disperse far and wide. This social form is highly successful at invading new territories. The other young queens join existing multiple-queen colonies close to their maternal colony. The multiple queens cooperating in such colonies are able to produce more workers than are found in a single-queen colony. This makes multiple queen colonies the more successful social form in busy environments.

The red fire ant is infamous for its painful sting in South America where it is a native species, and in many other parts of the world where its aggressiveness and high population density have made it an invasive pest. It was accidentally introduced to the Southern USA in the 1930s and has since spread to many warm parts of the world including China and Australia. Efforts at controlling the spread of this species have largely been unsuccessful, as indicated by its Latin name, Solenopsis invicta, meaning "the invincible."

Dr. Wurm added, "Our discovery could help in developing novel pest control strategies. For example, a pesticide could artificially deactivate the genes in the social chromosome and induce social anarchy within the colony."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. John Wang, Yannick Wurm, Mingkwan Nipitwattanaphon, Oksana Riba-Grognuz, Yu-Ching Huang, DeWayne Shoemaker, Laurent Keller. A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature11832

Cite This Page:

Queen Mary, University of London. "New 'social' chromosome discovered in the red fire ant." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130116131403.htm>.
Queen Mary, University of London. (2013, January 16). New 'social' chromosome discovered in the red fire ant. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130116131403.htm
Queen Mary, University of London. "New 'social' chromosome discovered in the red fire ant." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130116131403.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. 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