New analysis of seven ant genomes reveals clues to longer life spans associated with sociality

Apr 29, 2014

In a new study, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, J. Roux, et al. tried to uncover which genes could be involved in ant-specific adaptations, notably in relation to the evolution of complex social systems and division of labor.

Using a combination of state-of-the-art evolutionary tools, the paper examines signatures of positive selection on a phylogeny of seven ants and compares these signatures with those detected in other insect datasets composed of 12 species of flies and 10 species of bees. This design allowed the authors to identify molecular patterns unique to ants, compared to flies and bees.

They identified 24 functional categories of that experienced strong positive selection in the ant lineage. Among the significant categories, some were related to nervous system development, behavior, immunity, metabolism, protein translation and degradation, but similar patterns were observed in flies and bees. Strikingly, they also found ant-specific signal of positive selection on genes with mitochondrial activity, that accounted for 11 out of the 24 significant categories. Additional analyses suggested that this could be an important molecular clue that may be responsible for increased lifespan of queens in the ant lineage—ant queens can live up to 30 years in some species. Mitochondria are cellular power plants in the cells, whose by-products are thought to be toxic and responsible for aging.

"The improvement of mitochondrial activity by positive selection on ant genes might have been an important step toward the evolution of extreme lifespan that is a hallmark of this lineage," said Julien Roux.

Explore further: Butterfly larvae mimic queen ant to avoid detection

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Butterfly larvae mimic queen ant to avoid detection

Apr 09, 2014

Parasitic butterfly larvae may mimic ants' acoustic signals to aid in the infiltration of their host colonies, according to results published April 9, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Marco Sala f ...

Plants compete for friendly ants

Feb 10, 2014

(Phys.org) —Many woodland plants rely on ants to disperse their seeds; such seed dispersal increases the plant population's chance of survival. Robert Warren, assistant professor of biology, has recently ...

Recommended for you

Researcher reveals how amphibians crossed continents

7 minutes ago

There are more than 7,000 known species of amphibians that can be found in nearly every type of ecosystem on six continents. But there have been few attempts to understand exactly when and how frogs, toads, ...

Breakthrough in coccidiosis research

Jul 28, 2014

Biological researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are a step closer to finding a new cost-effective vaccine for the intestinal disease, coccidiosis, which can have devastating effects on poultry ...

User comments : 0