Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Homebound termites answer 150-year-old evolution question

08.10.2009
Evolution of sterility potentially explained among social insects

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!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>