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
Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine
25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy