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Quantitative Genetics of Caste in Social Insects


The social insects are established model systems for the study of social evolution and are emerging model systems for studying the evolution of behaviour, aging, and complex social phenotypes. However, we know very little of the genetic basis of social insect phenotypes. This is a major limitation because the genetic architecture underlying traits determines how traits respond to selection. The purpose of the proposed research is to develop and implement novel approaches to study the evolution of social insect phenotypes. The two main research objectives are to compare the genetic architecture of two fungus growing ant species that differ in social complexity and to use artificial selection to study how different components of pharaoh ant phenotypes independently respond to selection. While Europe has emerged as a centre of social insect research, it has lagged behind the United States in the field of quantitative genetics, the study of the genetic basis of phenotypes. The researcher (Dr. Linksvayer) has been trained in quantitative genetics at leading institutions in the United States and has pioneered the application of quantitative genetic approaches to social insect systems. The host institution, the Centre for Social Evolution at the University of Copenhagen, is a leading European institution for the study of social insect evolution and has unique facilities, personnel, and experience with the two proposed study systems; the host (Prof. Boomsma) is one of the leading scholars in the field. The proposed research is an ideal match of the unique attributes of the host institution and researcher, and thus provides a perfect opportunity for the transfer of knowledge between Europe and the United States. The study of the genetic and molecular bases of traits is rapidly expanding, and the proposed research will strongly contribute to the establishment of European excellence and competitiveness in this field.

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Norregade 10
1165 Kobenhavn
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 212 823,92
Administrative Contact
Jacobus Jan Boomsma (Prof.)