By examining the worker castes in colonies of the ant, Pheidole morrisi, researchers have found new evidence that ants alter the organization of their colonies in different environments. Researchers Andrew Yang and colleagues from Duke University compared populations of P. morrisi in Florida, North Carolina and New York, and uncovered evidence supporting the idea that some insects adapt to their environment by adjusting body size and the relative proportion of different castes within their population.
Over the past 30 years, theoretical work on social organization has generated a number of predictions about how the colonies of eusocial insects, like ants and bees, could adapt to different environments. Many ants have morphologically distinct "castes," such as workers and soldiers, that specialize in different tasks within the colony. One long-standing prediction is that the optimal proportion of these castes in a colony should vary as conditions in nature vary. To date, the only evidence that ant colonies can exhibit any flexibility in the relative numbers of workers and soldiers has been from studies that measure the response to short-term environmental change that occurs within the normal life cycle of a colony.
In the new work, Yang and colleagues headed to the field to explore the question of whether caste structure can undergo similar changes on much larger spatial and temporal scale. The researchers found that the proportion of castes, as well as the ants body sizes, differed between populations of P. morrisi in three geographically distinct sites in the eastern United States. The differing population characteristics persisted when the ants were brought into the laboratory environment, suggesting that the differences between the populations reflects evolutionary divergence. Moreover, behavioral experiments – so-called "laboratory contests" between P. morrisi and a competitor species, the fire ant Solenopsis invicta – demonstrated that members of the soldier caste play an important role in colony defense. This role for soldiers, in combination with geographic differences in competitors, may explain the variation in the proportions of castes found between populations.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
From the Arctic to the tropics: researchers present a unique database on Earth’s vegetation
20.11.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Fading stripes in Southeast Asia: First insight into the ecology of an elusive and threatened rabbit
20.11.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy