idw – Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Nachrichten, Termine, Experten

Grafik: idw-Logo
Medienpartner:
Wissenschaftsjahr


Share on: 
03/07/2018 09:32

Ant raids: It’s all in the genes

Sabine Wendler Senckenberg Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum Pressestelle
Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen

    Certain ants attack and enslave other species, and integrate their offspring into their own colonies in order to survive. Researchers at the Senckenberg Nature Research Society and the University of Mainz recently discovered that the raids required to achieve this are controlled by different genes in each of several closely related ant species of the genus Temnothorax. This indicates that the evolution of closely related species through changes in the genetic material is a random process in which several paths may lead to the same outcome. Moreover, the researchers were able to identify two specific attack genes in slavemaker ants. The study was recently published in “Scientific Reports.”

    Barely 3mm long and yet a veritable war machine – the North American ant species Temnothorax americanus should not be underestimated, since it belongs to a group of ants that capture closely related ant species and make them work in their own colonies. The task of these so-called slaves is to raise their conquerors’ brood and to supply food. In order to acquire slaves, ants such as Temnothorax americanus set out on raids. Researchers from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center and the University of Mainz study which genes control these raids.

    “Our experiments show that the combat strategies of Temnothorax americanus and its relatives, Temnothorax dulocticus and Temnothorax pilagens, are basically very similar. However, the details of the attacks differ from species to species,” explains Dr. Barbara Feldmeyer of the Senckenberg Research Center for Biodiversity and Climate, and she adds, “During the raid the differences in the tuning of individual genes become particularly apparent.”

    This, together with other findings, suggests, that in the slave-raiding ants differences in gene expressions, i.e., the reading of the gene sequence and the transcription into proteins, is solely geared toward the raid. Similar patterns were also discovered in the potential slaves, which showed different, genetically based defense patterns.

    Figuratively speaking, different gene expression means that that in the genetic material of the three ant species, certain buttons are pressed at different levels of intensity – yet, ultimately, this leads to the same result in all species: a successful raid. The team was surprised by these findings, since for closely related, genetically similar species it was assumed that they would all follow similar genetic paths to achieve a specific goal.

    However, this study now shows that genetic evolution among closely related species may well be the result of random selection. “The results suggest that many evolutionary adaptations can be traced back to random mutations. These mutations lead to genetic differences even between closely related species. However, since these species are often subject to similar selective pressure, the result of the adaptive processes, i.e., the behavior, is similar,” explains Professor Susanne Foitzik of the University of Mainz.

    Despite their differences, the three slave-holding Temnothorax species appear to share two genes that are important for the raids. “Acyl-CoA Delta (11) Desaturase causes the attackers to emit chemical scents during the raid. These scents mask the attackers, thereby increasing the chances for a successful raid. On the other hand, the gene Trypsin-7 appears to affect the recognition potential, thus enabling – at least in part – the identification of the host colonies required for a raid,” adds Feldmeyer in summary.

    Contact

    Dr. Barbara Feldmeyer
    Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
    Tel. +49 (0)69- 7542 1839
    barbara.feldmeyer@senckenberg.de

    Sabine Wendler
    Press officer
    Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
    Tel. +49 (0)69- 7542 1818
    pressestelle@senckenberg.de

    Publication

    Alleman, A., Feldmeyer, B. and Foitzik, S. (2018): Comparative analyses of co-evolving host-parasite associations reveal unique gene expression patterns underlying slavemaker raiding and host defensive phenotypes. Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-20262-y

    Press images may be used at no cost for editorial reporting, provided that the original author’s name is published, as well. The images may only be passed on to third parties in the context of current reporting.

    This press release and press images are also available at http://www.senckenberg.de/presse

    To study and understand nature with its limitless diversity of living creatures and to preserve and manage it in a sustainable fashion as the basis of life for future generations – this has been the goal of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung (Senckenberg Nature Research Society) for 200 years. This integrative “geobiodiversity research” and the dissemination of research and science are among Senckenberg’s main tasks. Three nature museums in Frankfurt, Görlitz and Dresden display the diversity of life and the earth’s development over millions of years. The Senckenberg Nature Research Society is a member of the Leibniz Association. The Senckenberg Nature Museum in Frankfurt am Main is supported by the City of Frankfurt am Main as well as numerous other partners. Additional information can be found at http://www.senckenberg.de


    Criteria of this press release:
    Journalists, all interested persons
    Biology, Environment / ecology, Zoology / agricultural and forest sciences
    transregional, national
    Research results
    English


    The Temnothorax americanus ant in the middle is battling with two ants from the species Temnothorax longispinosus in order to enslave them.


    For download

    x

    A colony of slavemaker-ants Temnothorax americanus together with Temnothorax longispinosus – ants which have been subjected to take care of the species brood.


    For download

    x

    Help

    Search / advanced search of the idw archives
    Combination of search terms

    You can combine search terms with and, or and/or not, e.g. Philo not logy.

    Brackets

    You can use brackets to separate combinations from each other, e.g. (Philo not logy) or (Psycho and logy).

    Phrases

    Coherent groups of words will be located as complete phrases if you put them into quotation marks, e.g. “Federal Republic of Germany”.

    Selection criteria

    You can also use the advanced search without entering search terms. It will then follow the criteria you have selected (e.g. country or subject area).

    If you have not selected any criteria in a given category, the entire category will be searched (e.g. all subject areas or all countries).

    Cookies optimize the use of our services. By surfing on idw-online.de you agree to the use of cookies. Data Confidentiality Statement
    Okay