Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetically identical ants help unlock the secrets of larval fate

Date:
May 30, 2014
Source:
Rockefeller University
Summary:
A young animal’s genes are not the only genes that determine its fate. The genetic identity of its caretakers matters too. Researchers suspect the interaction between the two can sway the fate of the young animal, but this complex dynamic is difficult to pin down in lab experiments. However, social insect researchers have found a solution and are developing a species of small raider ants as a model organism in order to ask questions about the relationships between genes, social behavior and evolution.

Cerapachys biroi ants, native to Asia and introduced globally on tropical and subtropical islands, have no queens and have minimal genetic variation, making them ideal for research on social behavior.
Credit: Image courtesy of Rockefeller University

A young animal's genes are not the only genes that determine its fate. The genetic identity of its caretakers matters too. Researchers suspect the interaction between the two can sway the fate of the young animal, but this complex dynamic is difficult to pin down in lab experiments.

Related Articles


However, social insect researchers have found a solution. Rockefeller University's Daniel Kronauer, head of the Laboratory of Insect Social Evolution, and his colleagues are developing a species of small raider ants as a model organism in order to ask questions about the relationships between genes, social behavior and evolution.

In a pair of recent papers, the researchers first explain the unique, and potentially useful, biology of this 2.5-millimeter-long ant. Then, in work with collaborators at the University of Paris 13, they put it to work exploring the interaction between the larvae and their nursemaids, and the influence on the young ants' reproductive success as adults.

Clonal raider ants, the species Cerapachys biroi, reproduce by cloning, and they live in colonies of as many as a few hundred nearly genetically identical workers. This makes these ants ideal for studies testing how a particular genetic makeup responds to different conditions, the researchers write in Current Biology. With the help of collaborators at BGI China, researchers in Kronauer's lab have sequenced the clonal raider ant's genome. This is an important step toward using the ant in the sorts of experiments conducted for years in traditional model organisms, such as mice and fruit flies.

"We have shown that colony mates are extremely closely related to one another, with all of the individuals in a colony being essentially genetically identical. This gives us precise control in experiments because we don't need to account for individual genetic variation," says Peter Oxley, a postdoc in the laboratory who led work establishing the clonal raider ant as a promising new model organism.

In the second study, one of the first to make use of the clonal raider ant, a team led by Serafino Teseo of the University of Paris 13 used the unique aspects of the ants' biology to test the indirect role genes play in shaping the future identity of larvae and whole colonies by looking at the interaction between larvae and adults. They did so by observing the success of two ant clones, A and B, in pure colonies or mixed together into chimeric colonies. They also swapped broods, so A adults raised B larvae and vice versa.

It turned out that A and B larvae developed differently depending on whether A or B nurses raised them. Left alone, pure A colonies produced the most young after six generations, making them more successful than B. However, in mixed colonies, B did better because its larvae more frequently turned into large adults that specialize in egg-laying rather than smaller, foraging-focused individuals.

The researchers suspect an indirect genetic effect -- specifically, a social influence. To begin to tease apart the dynamic, they had adults from one clone raise larvae from the other. Again, B did better when raised by A nurses than any of the other combinations. The results were published in Nature Communications.

The B colony's strategy of favoring reproduction over foraging when raised by A colony nurses smacks of social parasitism, in which one organism exploits another's social behavior for its own benefit. "This doesn't mean B is a parasite in the making, just that uncoupling the normal interaction between larvae and their nearly identical adult nursemaids reveals the presence of this mechanism," Kronauer says.

The study shows that, in social species, genetic makeup alone does not provide enough information to predict social behavior. Instead, interactions between social partners, such as larvae and their caregivers, are crucial determinants and can lead to surprising outcomes.


Story Source:

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


Journal References:

  1. Peter R. Oxley, Lu Ji, Ingrid Fetter-Pruneda, Sean K. McKenzie, Cai Li, Haofu Hu, Guojie Zhang, Daniel J.C. Kronauer. The Genome of the Clonal Raider Ant Cerapachys biroi. Current Biology, 2014; 24 (4): 451 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.018
  2. Serafino Teseo, Nicolas Chβline, Pierre Jaisson, Daniel J.C. Kronauer. Epistasis between adults and larvae underlies caste fate and fitness in a clonal ant. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4363

Cite This Page:

Rockefeller University. "Genetically identical ants help unlock the secrets of larval fate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140530161002.htm>.
Rockefeller University. (2014, May 30). Genetically identical ants help unlock the secrets of larval fate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140530161002.htm
Rockefeller University. "Genetically identical ants help unlock the secrets of larval fate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140530161002.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) — A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Surfer Accidentally Stands on Shark, Gets Bitten

Surfer Accidentally Stands on Shark, Gets Bitten

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) — A 20-year-old competition surfer said on Thursday he accidentally stepped on a shark's head before it bit him off the Australian east coast. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Inflicts Heavy Toll on Guinean Potato Trade

Ebola Inflicts Heavy Toll on Guinean Potato Trade

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic has seen Senegal and Guinea Bissau close its borders with Guinea and the economic consequences have started to be felt, especially in Fouta Djallon, where the renowned potato industry has been hit hard. Duration: 02:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Genetically Altered Glowing Flower on Display in Tokyo

Genetically Altered Glowing Flower on Display in Tokyo

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 30, 2014) — Just in time for Halloween, a glowing flower goes on display in Tokyo. Instead of sorcery and magic, its creators used science to genetically modify the flower, adding a naturally fluorescent plankton protein to its genetic mix. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
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