Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Designer babies may explain insect sociality

Date:
February 3, 2013
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Being able to choose the sex of their babies may be the key to the complex societies built by ants, bees, and wasps, according to scientists.

Female workers providing childcare in an ant nest.
Credit: Alex Wild

Being able to choose the sex of their babies may be the key to the complex societies built by ants, bees, and wasps, according to Oxford University scientists.

The researchers calculated the evolutionary costs and benefits to insect mothers of choosing the sex of their offspring and showed that, if females help out with bringing up babies, then mothers prefer to have daughters rather than sons -- leading to a large workforce of female helpers.

Their findings could also help to explain why termites, alone among social insects, have complex societies with a roughly equal balance of males and females: because in termite society both males and females help to raise offspring.

A report of the research is published in the March issue of the journal The American Naturalist.

'In social ants, bees, and wasps, mothers can decide the sex of their offspring by controlling which of their eggs get fertilized by sperm,' said Dr Andy Gardner of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, an author of the report. 'Fertilized eggs develop as daughters, and unfertilized eggs develop as sons. It's the daughters who do all the work in the colony, so this special ability means that the mother can raise a female workforce without wasting resources on relatively useless males.'

Previously, the sociality of ants, bees and wasps has been attributed to the curious fact that, in these species, a female is genetically more similar to her sisters than she is to her own daughters -- the so-called 'haplodiploidy hypothesis'.

However, this genetic quirk does not occur in termites, which have also evolved elaborate societies. 'The failure of the haplodiploidy hypothesis to explain the sociality of termites is one of the reasons why it has gradually fallen out of favour since being proposed in the 1960s' said Dr Gardner.

Co-author Laura Ross of Oxford University's Department of Zoology points out that termite sociality is, however, fully consistent with the new 'sex-ratio adjustment' hypothesis:

'Termites are the exception that proves the rule. They can't bias the sex ratio towards females, but they don't need to, because the males do as much work as the females in their societies. We suggest that the ability and need for sex ratio adjustment explains why some insects have evolved advanced eusociality and why other insects have not.'


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Andy Gardner, Laura Ross. Haplodiploidy, Sex-Ratio Adjustment, and Eusociality. The American Naturalist, 2013; E000 DOI: 10.1086/669147

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Designer babies may explain insect sociality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130203085411.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2013, February 3). Designer babies may explain insect sociality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130203085411.htm
University of Oxford. "Designer babies may explain insect sociality." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130203085411.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
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