Scientists find new colony structure of fire ants evolved in one species before spreading to others —

Scientists from Queen Mary College of London have found {that a} new type of ant society unfold throughout species. They discovered that after the brand new type of society developed in a single species, a “social supergene” carrying the instruction-set for the brand new social kind unfold into different species. This unfold occurred by way of hybridisation, i.e., breeding between ants of various species. This unlikely occasion supplies an alternate lifestyle, making the ants extra profitable than in the event that they solely had the unique social kind.

Crimson hearth ants initially had solely colonies with one queen. The staff beforehand found that about a million years in the past, a brand new social kind developed the place colonies may have dozens of queens. A selected model of a big part of chromosome, named the “social supergene,” consists of the genetic data essential to make staff settle for multiple queen. The brand new analysis, revealed at present in Nature Communications, analysed the complete genomes or instruction units of 365 male hearth ants to look at the evolution of the social supergene, and located that the identical model of this chromosome is current in a number of hearth ant species.

Switch of enormous quantities of genetic data throughout species is uncommon due to genetic incompatibilities. Nonetheless, on this case, the benefits of having a number of queens overrode the incompatibilities, and the genetic materials repeatedly unfold to different species from the one supply species during which this new social kind developed. The multiple-queen social kind has benefits in a number of conditions. For instance, a multiple-queen colony has extra staff and thus can outcompete a colony with just one queen. Moreover, if there’s a flood, a colony with a number of queens is much less prone to turn out to be queenless.

Dr Yannick Wurm, Reader in Evolutionary Genomics and Bioinformatics at Queen Mary College of London and a fellow of The Alan Turing Institute mentioned: “This analysis reveals how evolutionary improvements can unfold throughout species. It additionally reveals how evolution works on the degree of DNA and chromosomes.

“It was extremely stunning to find that different species may purchase a brand new type of social organisation by way of hybridisation. The supergene area that creates multi-queen colonies is a big piece of chromosome that accommodates a whole lot of genes. The various elements of a genome evolve to work collectively in fine-tuned manners, thus all of a sudden having a combination with completely different variations of many genes from one other species is difficult and fairly uncommon.

“As a substitute of executing additional queens as they might in a single-queen colony, the brand new model of the supergene leads staff to just accept a number of queens. Having studied the historical past of the supergene and new social kind extensively, we subsequent wish to determine which genes or elements of the supergene area, result in these adjustments in behaviour. This can even assist fill extra gaps in our understanding of evolutionary processes.”

Rodrigo Pracana, a lead writer of the examine, additionally at Queen Mary College of London added: “Our examine reveals how detailed evaluation of enormous numbers of untamed animals can present stunning new perception on how evolution works.”

The staff from Queen Mary had been beforehand among the many first on the planet to use large-scale DNA-sequencing approaches to wild bugs — which enabled them to find one of many first well-known supergenes.

Crimson hearth ants are native to South America and notorious for his or her painful sting. One in every of these species is thought in lots of different elements of the world, the place it’s aggressiveness and excessive inhabitants density have made it an invasive pest. Efforts at controlling the unfold of this species have largely been unsuccessful, as indicated by its Latin title, Solenopsis invicta, which means “the invincible.”

The analysis was supported by the Leibniz Institute for the Evaluation of Biodiversity Change, with Dr. Eckart Stolle helping as a part of the staff at Queen Mary earlier than persevering with this work on the Leibniz Institute.

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