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Date Range
2010 2017

The termites evolved eusociality and complex societies before the ants, but have been studied much less. The recent publication of the first two termite genomes provides a unique comparative opportunity, particularly because the sequenced termites represent opposite ends of the social complexity spectrum. Zootermopsis nevadensis has simple colonies with totipotent workers that can develop into all castes (dispersing reproductives, nest-inheriting replacement reproductives, and soldiers). In contrast, the fungus-growing termite Macrotermes natalensis belongs to the higher termites and has very large and complex societies with morphologically distinct castes that are life-time sterile. Here we compare key characteristics of genomic architecture, focusing ...

Contributors
Korb, Judith, Poulsen, Michael, Hu, Haofu, et al.
Created Date
2015-03-04

The sophisticated organization of eusocial insect societies is largely based on the regulation of complex behaviors by hydrocarbon pheromones present on the cuticle. We used electrophysiology to investigate the detection of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) by female-specific olfactory sensilla basiconica on the antenna of Camponotus floridanus ants through the utilization of one of the largest family of odorant receptors characterized so far in insects. These sensilla, each of which contains multiple olfactory receptor neurons, are differentially sensitive to CHCs and allow them to be classified into three broad groups that collectively detect every hydrocarbon tested, including queen and worker-enriched CHCs. This ...

Contributors
Sharma, Kavita R., Enzmann, Brittany, Schmidt, Yvonne, et al.
Created Date
2015-08-13

Eusocial insects, mostly Hymenoptera, have evolved unique colonial lifestyles that rely on the perception of social context mainly through pheromones, and chemoreceptors are hypothesized to have played important adaptive roles in the evolution of sociality. However, because chemoreceptor repertoires have been characterized in few social insects and their solitary relatives, a comprehensive examination of this hypothesis has not been possible. Here, we annotate ∼3,000 odorant and gustatory receptors in recently sequenced Hymenoptera genomes and systematically compare >4,000 chemoreceptors from 13 hymenopterans, representing one solitary lineage (wasps) and three independently evolved eusocial lineages (ants and two bees). We observe a strong ...

Contributors
Zhou, Xiaofan, Rokas, Antonis, Berger, Shelley L., et al.
Created Date
2015-08-12

Gut-associated microbiota of ants include Rhizobiales bacteria with affiliation to the genus Bartonella. These bacteria may enable the ants to fix atmospheric nitrogen, but no genomes have been sequenced yet to test the hypothesis. Sequence reads from a member of the Rhizobiales were identified in the data collected in a genome project of the ant Harpegnathos saltator. We present an analysis of the closed 1.86 Mb genome of the ant-associated bacterium, for which we suggest the species name Candidatus Tokpelaia hoelldoblerii. A phylogenetic analysis reveals a relationship to Bartonella and Brucella, which infect mammals. Novel gene acquisitions include a gene ...

Contributors
Neuvonen, Minna-Maria, Tamarit, Daniel, Naslund, Kristina, et al.
Created Date
2016-12-15

Epigenetic inheritance plays an important role in mediating alternative phenotype in highly social species. In order to gain a greater understanding of epigenetic effects in societies, we investigated DNA methylation in the termite Zootermopsis nevadensis. Termites are the most ancient social insects, and developmentally distinct from highly-studied, hymenopteran social insects. We used replicated bisulfite-sequencing to investigate patterns of DNA methylation in both sexes and among castes of Z. nevadensis. We discovered that Z. nevadensis displayed some of the highest levels of DNA methylation found in insects. We also found strong differences in methylation between castes. Methylated genes tended to be ...

Contributors
Glastad, Karl M., Gokhale, Kaustubh, Liebig, Juergen, et al.
Created Date
2016-11-16

Background Mutual policing is an important mechanism for reducing conflict in cooperative groups. In societies of ants, bees, and wasps, mutual policing of worker reproduction can evolve when workers are more closely related to the queen's sons than to the sons of workers or when the costs of worker reproduction lower the inclusive fitness of workers. During colony growth, relatedness within the colony remains the same, but the costs of worker reproduction may change. The costs of worker reproduction are predicted to be greatest in incipient colonies. If the costs associated with worker reproduction outweigh the individual direct benefits to ...

Contributors
Moore, Dani, Liebig, Juergen, Arizona State University. School of Life Sciences
Created Date
2010-10-27

Eusocial insects use cuticular hydrocarbons as components of pheromones that mediate social behaviours, such as caste and nestmate recognition, and regulation of reproduction. In ants such as Harpegnathos saltator, the queen produces a pheromone which suppresses the development of workers’ ovaries and if she is removed, workers can transition to a reproductive state known as gamergate. Here we functionally characterize a subfamily of odorant receptors (Ors) with a nine-exon gene structure that have undergone a massive expansion in ants and other eusocial insects. We deorphanize 22 representative members and find they can detect cuticular hydrocarbons from different ant castes, with ...

Contributors
Pask, Gregory M., Slone, Jesse D., Millar, Jocelyn G., et al.
Created Date
2017-08-17

Ants are a highly successful family of insects that thrive in a variety of habitats across the world. Perhaps their best-known features are complex social organization and strict division of labor, separating reproduction from the day-to-day maintenance and care of the colony, as well as strict discrimination against foreign individuals. Since these social characteristics in ants are thought to be mediated by semiochemicals, a thorough analysis of these signals, and the receptors that detect them, is critical in revealing mechanisms that lead to stereotypic behaviors. To address these questions, we have defined and characterized the major chemoreceptor families in a ...

Contributors
Zhou, Xiaofan, Slone, Jesse D., Rokas, Antonis, et al.
Created Date
2012-08-30

Although eusociality evolved independently within several orders of insects, research into the molecular underpinnings of the transition towards social complexity has been confined primarily to Hymenoptera (for example, ants and bees). Here we sequence the genome and stage-specific transcriptomes of the dampwood termite Zootermopsis nevadensis (Blattodea) and compare them with similar data for eusocial Hymenoptera, to better identify commonalities and differences in achieving this significant transition. We show an expansion of genes related to male fertility, with upregulated gene expression in male reproductive individuals reflecting the profound differences in mating biology relative to the Hymenoptera. For several chemoreceptor families, we ...

Contributors
Terrapon, Nicolas, Li, Cai, Robertson, Hugh M., et al.
Created Date
2014-05-20

Insects communicate with pheromones using sensitive antennal sensilla. Although trace amounts of pheromones can be detected by many insects, context-dependent increased costs of high sensitivity might lead to plasticity in sensillum responsiveness. We have functionally characterized basiconic sensilla of the ant Harpegnathos saltator for responses to general odors in comparison to cuticular hydrocarbons which can act as fertility signals emitted by the principal reproductive(s) of a colony to inhibit reproduction by worker colony members. When released from inhibition workers may become reproductive gamergates. We observed plasticity in olfactory sensitivity after transition to reproductive status with significant reductions in electrophysiological responses ...

Contributors
Ghaninia Tabarestani, Majid, Haight, Kevin, Berger, Shelley L., et al.
Created Date
2017-06-16