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.

Related Articles


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 April 18, 2015 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 April 18, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 17, 2015) A truck carrying honey bees overturns near Lynnwood, Washington, spreading boxes of live bees across the highway. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Dog flu is spreading in several Midwestern states. Dog daycare centers and veterinary offices are taking precautions. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers from the E/V Nautilus had quite a surprise Tuesday, when a curious sperm whale swam around their remotely operated vehicle in the Gulf of Mexico. Cameras captured the encounter. (April 17) 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:

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