Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Single class of queen pheromones stops worker reproduction in ants, bees, wasps

Date:
January 16, 2014
Source:
KU Leuven
Summary:
A new study has found that the chemical structure of queen pheromones in wasps, ants and some bees is strikingly similar, even though these insects are separated by millions of years of evolution and each evolved eusociality independently of the other. The results suggest that queen pheromones used by divergent groups of social insects evolved from conserved signals of a common solitary ancestor.

The desert ant (left), the buff-tailed bumblebee (centre) and the common wasp (left) all use the same class of pheromone to stop workers from reproducing.
Credit: KU Leuven

A new study by a team of KU Leuven and international researchers has found that the chemical structure of queen pheromones in wasps, ants and some bees is strikingly similar, even though these insects are separated by millions of years of evolution and each evolved eusociality independently of the other. The results suggest that queen pheromones used by divergent groups of social insects evolved from conserved signals of a common solitary ancestor.

Writing in the 17 January issue of Science, the researchers say the new insights "could contribute greatly to our understanding of the evolution of eusociality" in insects. Eusociality is characterised by cooperative brood care, overlapping adult generations and division of labour between fertile queens and sterile workers.

The researchers began by searching for sterility-inducing queen pheromones in representative species of wasps, bees, and ants. After identifying candidate queen pheromones by analysing chemical profiles of queens and workers, they created synthetic samples of the pheromones and tested them to see whether they inhibited worker reproduction.

They found that the synthetic odors mimicked the effect of the presence of a live queen in a nest -- fewer workers' ovaries were activated and more regressed when exposed to the odor treatment than in non-odor controls.

The queen pheromones of all three species belonged to a single class of chemicals: saturated hydrocarbons. To further investigate their findings across a larger sample of social insect species, the researchers then conducted a systematic review of fertility- and queen-linked odors in 64 species using data from previously published studies. The findings matched up: saturated hydrocarbons were the single most common class of chemicals overproduced by queens or fertile individuals. From this, the researchers concluded that saturated hydrocarbons act as a conserved class of queen pheromones in ants, bees and wasps -- a surprising finding because these insects started diverging some 145 million years ago and each evolved eusociality independently.

Fertility cues

How to explain the chemo-structural similarity of queen pheromones across distantly related species? "Our thinking is that queen pheromones in social insects likely evolved from 'fertility cues' used by female individuals of solitary insect species. These cues were probably used to attract male mates," says corresponding author Tom Wenseleers.

"That hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that some of the compounds we studied also function as mate attractants in solitary insect species. And this ultimately supports the hypothesis that fertility signals, which eventually evolved to become queen pheromones that regulate reproduction, have remained the same since the last common solitary ancestor of all social insects, which lived approximately 145 million years ago," says Wenseleers.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Annette Van Oystaeyen, Ricardo Caliari Oliveira, Luke Holman, Jelle S. Van Zweden, Carmen Romero, Cintia A. Oi, Patrizia D'ettorre, Mohammadreza Khalesi, Johan Billen, Felix Wäckers, Jocelyn G. Millar, and Tom Wenseleers. Conserved Class of Queen Pheromones Stops Social Insect Workers from Reproducing. Science, January 2014

Cite This Page:

KU Leuven. "Single class of queen pheromones stops worker reproduction in ants, bees, wasps." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140116150808.htm>.
KU Leuven. (2014, January 16). Single class of queen pheromones stops worker reproduction in ants, bees, wasps. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140116150808.htm
KU Leuven. "Single class of queen pheromones stops worker reproduction in ants, bees, wasps." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140116150808.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. 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