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The discovery of supergene leads to new knowledge of fire ants

The discovery of supergene leads to new knowledge of fire ants

A Fire Ant. Credit: UGA

A unique study conducted by the University of Georgia entomologists led to the discovery of a unique supergene in fire ant colonies that determines whether young queen ants will leave their birth colony to start their own new colony or if they join one with many queens.

The researchers also found that the ants were more aggressive than the queens who did not contain supergene, which caused them to be killed by the main workers in the colony. This critical finding will open the door to new pest control techniques that may be more effective in eliminating troubled ant fire colonies.

“Learning about the behavior of fire ants is very important information at baseline,”

; said Ken Ross, a professor of entomology at UGA. “This information is key to helping us manage pest populations and predict what differences might occur in their environment.”

A supergene is a collection of neighboring genes found in a chromosome inherited together due to close genetic contact. The study of these unique genes is important to understand the potential causes for differences between the social structure of fire ants, specifically for species control and development in existing knowledge bases.

Researchers are focusing on the young queen fire queen starting the new flight. They compared the effect of supergene on the two main types of social structures of ants ants: monogyne, which is reproduction from queens forming a new nest, and pologyne, reproduction from queens joining an existing at the nest.

The discovery of supergene leads to new knowledge of fire ants

The winged ants are called reproductive. Credit: UGA

Ross first worked with colleagues in his lab to discover a striking example of genetically encoded variations in the social organization within the Antenopsis invicta fire ant species. The next step is to understand how genetic variations result in complex behavioral and physiological variations in ants from single queen colonies compared to colonies with multiple queens. Combining this knowledge helps scientists better understand species development patterns, adding alternatives to combat invasive populations.

Led by a pair of UGA entomology graduate alumni, Joanie King, who earned her master’s degree in 2017, and Samuel Arsenault, who earned her doctorate in 2020, the team developed an experimental design that used a collection of samples from two fir ant organs. —Brain and ovarian tissue – and the complete range of social chromosome genotypes and social forms within the fire species of fire.

Innovative learning incorporates a variety of scientific methods, leading to a collaboration of tools and resources across many areas of the institution.

“The UGA is a very supportive environment to carry out this research,” said Brendan Hunt, associate professor of entomology. “We received assistance in preparing samples for RNA sequencing from Dr. Bob Schmitz’s lab in the genetics department, performed the sequence at Georgia Genomics and Bioinformatics Core, and used computational resources from at the Georgia Advanced Computing Resource Center to analyze the data. “

These types of student-led projects give young researchers the opportunity to grow in a hands-on environment with mentorship and guidance from scientists with proven track records in the field.

“Graduate students gain experience that helps them move on to the next stages of their careers,” Hunt said. “Both continued their studies of ant genetics.”

Entomologists discovered the Florida fire ant matriarchy

Additional information:
Samuel V. Arsenault et al, Simple heritage, complex regulation: Supergene – mediated fire ant queen polymorphism, Molecular Ecology (2020). DOI: 10.1111 / mec.15581

Provided by the University of Georgia

Citation: Supergene discovery leads to new knowledge about fire ants (2020, October 16) obtained on October 16, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-supergene-discovery- know knowledge-ants.html

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