Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nepotism in ants: ant workers can regognize their kin

27.02.2003


Darwin in his time wondered about the existence of ants - how can natural selection as a process based on individual reproductive success give rise to sterile individuals such as ant workers? The solution comes from kin selection theory, which holds that an individual’s reproductive success can also be measured in the number of collateral kin produced. This is how the ants have solved the problem. In an ant colony with only one queen all the workers are her offspring and will in practice help to raise their siblings, which are genetically as valuable to them as own offspring.



However, colonies with multiple reproductively active queens occur commonly in ants. As a result workers will also be raising the more distantly related offspring, produced by queens other than their own mother. This dilutes the genetic returns from the help the workers provide. By selectively favouring offspring of the queen of closest kin, the workers can, however, partly mitigate this loss and more efficiently propagate their genes to the next generation. Because it is the workers who raise the brood they also have the opportunity to favour closer kin and disfavour (e.g. eliminate) more distant kin. Such nepotism har not been demonstrated before in ants.

Professor Liselotte Sundström and scientist Minttumaaria Hannonen from the University of Helsinki studied black ants and found out that kin does matter, and relatedness is a matter of discrimination. Their article is published in Nature, 27th of February, 2003.


In their study of the black ant (Formica fusca) the scientists show that worker ants are able to discriminate between closer and more distant kin, and also use this ability to raise offspring of higher genetic value. They constructed laboratory nests with two queens and took samples from a single offspring cohort both at the egg- and the adult stage. With the aid of genetic marker genes the scientists assessed both the reproductive shares each of the two queens obtained, and the relatedness between the workers and each of the two queens. If the workers are more closely related to one of the two queens, kin selection theory predicts that the reproductive share of this queen should increase during brood development. Conversely, if the workers are equally related to both queens no changes in brood composition are expected between the egg and the adult stage. The results show that this was the case - the closer the relatedness between the workers and one of the queens, the greater was the increase in her reproductive share during brood development.

The results thus show that worker ants can have very accurate kin discrimination abilities and that they also capitalize on this ability to pursue their selfish genetic interests. Nepotism has been difficult to demonstrate and has therefore remained a controversial issue. Most likely the tendency towards nepotism is a universal phenomenon, but the expression of this behaviour is likely to be modulated by costs due to recognition errors. When errors are made owing to informational constraints the costs will be paid by both the nepotistic individual and the entire colony. Under such circumstances natural selection will tend to eradicate nepotism from the population.

Minna Meriläinen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.helsinki.fi/english/news

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides
16.07.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht The secret sulfate code that lets the bad Tau in
16.07.2018 | American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>