Staying at home may have given the very first termite youngsters the best opportunity to rule the colony when their parents were killed by their neighbors. This is according to new research supported by the National Science Foundation and published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers say the incentive to remain home with siblings and inherit the parents' estate could be the missing link to a question posed nearly 150 years ago by evolution theorist Charles Darwin. He wondered how natural selection could favor traits that reduce reproductive success among worker offspring in highly social insects.
This is especially curious because Darwin argued for small biological changes that result in greater chances of survival and successful reproduction over time. But social insects, ants, bees, wasps and termites colonies in particular can have over a million sterile and/or non-reproductive workers and soldiers, which seemed counterintuitive.
Research conducted by biologists at the University of Maryland, College Park shows that when two neighboring termite families meet within the same log, one or both families' kings and queens are killed and a new, merged, cooperative colony results. Replacement "junior" kings and queens then develop from either or both colonies' non-reproducing, worker offspring, and termites from the two families may even interbreed.
Pheromones produced by healthy kings and queens that normally suppress gonad development in worker or "helper" classes are absent or reduced when kings and queens are killed. As a result, suppression is lifted and nonrelated, "sterile," helper offspring from both colonies are able to become new "reproductives" and assume the throne.
"Assassination of founding kings and queens may have driven young termite offspring to remain as non-reproducing workers in their birth colonies," says lead researcher and University of Maryland professor Barbara L. Thorne. Rather than risking dangerous attempts at independent colony initiation outside the nest, remaining at home may have given these first termites a better opportunity to become reproducers by inheriting their parents' throne.
Bobbie Mixon | EurekAlert!
At last, butterflies get a bigger, better evolutionary tree
16.02.2018 | Florida Museum of Natural History
New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom
16.02.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy