One gene controls whether a persistent pest serves one or many queens.
Revolting smell: scent may make fire ants kill impostor queens.
A protein that spots smell controls the power structure of fire ant colonies, Michael Krieger and Kenneth Ross of the University of Georgia, Athens, have discovered1. One form of the protein leads to nests with several queens living in harmony. The other leaves only one ruler.
Fire ants social life is of more than academic interest. The species (Solenopsis invicta) has spread from its South American homeland to become a serious pest in the Southern United States.
Causing a stink
Krieger and Ross have identified Gp-9, the gene that encodes the odour-detecting protein. Each ant has two copies of Gp-9, which can take one of two forms, known as B and b. Nests of BB ants contain one queen, those of Bb ants several; the bb form is lethal. Workers with Bb genes kill BB queens and workers in BB nests execute all queens except their sole ruler.
The identification of the protein is "a very important finding", says Keller. "We knew that a single gene was responsible for the two social forms, but we didnt know if the protein that Gp-9 makes was important. This shows that it really does underlie the two forms - and its exactly the type of gene that youd predict it to be."
Gp-9 controls queen number in three other ant species closely related to fire ants, Krieger and Ross have also found. This suggests that the genetic control originated several million years ago, and has persisted as a single ancestral species evolved and split into several. Krieger suspects that Gp-9 may be at work in many more species.
The leaders of multi-queen nests are less regal than queens that rule alone. They are smaller, and cannot establish new colonies unaided. Krieger thinks that workers tolerate the diminutive despots because they do not recognize them as royals.
JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences