Findings reported this week reveal how an evolutionary innovation involving the sharing of genes between two ant species has given rise to a deep-seated dependency between them for the survival of both species populations. The new work illustrates how genetic exchange through interbreeding between two species can give rise to a system of interdependence at a high level of biological organization--in this case, the production of worker ants for both species.
Millions of years before the first modern humans evolved, ants were practicing many of the social innovations we consider to be our own: division of labor, agriculture, and even slavery. Indeed, these traits have been taken to their extreme in many ant species, such as the case of slavemaker ants, which have become so specialized for raiding food from the colonies of other ants that they can no longer feed themselves or raise their younger siblings. Recent work on ants suggests that we may need to add genetic engineering to the list of innovations ants have evolved to employ. In two species of harvester ants, populations have been discovered in which queens mate with males of another species to produce genetically novel hybrid workers. In a new study, Dr. Sara Helms Cahan and colleagues demonstrate that both of the species involved have effectively given up the ability to produce pure-species workers in favor of the hybrids, thereby becoming completely dependent on one another for survival.
Female ants are generally found in two forms: reproductive queens and sterile workers. The role, or caste, of an individual is determined for life at a certain stage in her development. In virtually all ant species, it is the environment in which a female is raised, rather than a genetic predisposition, that determines which caste she will adopt. However, in two harvester ant populations in southern New Mexico, queens and workers from the same colonies are genetically very different; in both species at the site, only the queens are genetically derived from a pure species-specific lineage, whereas all the workers are hybrids that possess a combination of genes from the two species in a single individual. It is not currently known whether the ants benefit from having hybrids do the work, but, as is evident from the researchers own attempts at selective breeding and genetic engineering, combining genomes is an easy way to produce novel characteristics that may be highly advantageous for growth, environmental tolerance, or disease resistance. Regardless of the specific advantages, however, it is clear that these ants have committed themselves to the hybrid workforce strategy. When the researchers prevented queens from mating with males of the other species, very few succeeded in making any workers at all, a handicap that would lead to certain population failure in the field. The new findings suggest that specialization involving reliance on interspecific hybrid workers has left these species unable to survive independently of one another.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells
22.02.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital
New insights into the information processing of motor neurons
22.02.2017 | Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
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”...
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...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
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...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
22.02.2017 | Life Sciences
22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy