One red and one black male harvester ant
A genetically unusual population of ants is changing some of the fundamental ways researchers think about insect colonies.
Social insects, like ants and bees, thrive on the caste system – a precise division of duties among colony members. In most of these societies, environment is thought to influence whether larvae develop into queens or sterile female workers, said Steve Rissing, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University.
But in a new study, Rissing and his colleagues found some genetically odd colonies of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex), that don’t seem to abide by the traditional rules of caste development. They found that genetics – not environment – determines the fate of a developing ant, and consequently the role it will play in the colony.
Steve Rissing | EurekAlert!
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