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Periodic Report Summary 1 - SOCIAL INVASIONS (Evolution of sociality in invasive fire ant populations)

The objective of this study is to reveal the underlying genetic elements that constitute the basis of adaptation in a social invasive species. Evolutionary theory provides an understanding of general, abstract principles of social evolution but the molecular mechanisms that facilitate this process were out of reach until very recently. The field of social insect evolutionary genomics was born about five years ago, with the advent of genome sequencing technologies, thereby opening up opportunities to address open questions relating to the mechanisms that underlie the evolution of sociality. Our research approaches these questions by studying molecular evolution and adaptation in native and introduced populations of the red imported fire ant. A population genomics approach using next generation sequencing is used to identify specific genomic loci under natural selection. The population demographic and recent evolution of these populations was reconstructed and selective pressures were inferred in the native and introduced populations. A selection survey identified genomic regions that may be the target of recent natural selection in the native and introduced ranges. These regions contain genes involved in molecular functions related to social biology and behavior, such as pheromone synthesis and caste determination. These expected results complement the abstract theory on social evolution that provides ultimate explanations with proximate explanations of the molecular mechanisms that make this theory a reality. Furthermore, these genes are inferred to be of ecological importance in these invasive populations, providing new insights into the biology of ant invasions.


Tsvia Beker, (Head of European Desk)
Tel.: +972 4 8288485
Fax: +972 4 8249865


Life Sciences
Record Number: 188990 / Last updated on: 2016-09-19
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