CORDIS
EU research results

CORDIS

English EN
The genetic basis of division of labor: testing the “reproductive groundplan hypothesis” in ants

The genetic basis of division of labor: testing the “reproductive groundplan hypothesis” in ants

Objective

The evolution and maintenance of cooperation in the face of inevitable conflicts, is regarded as one of the major questions in biology today. Answering this question requires understanding both the proximate basis of cooperative behavior and its comparative biology, but studies integrating experimental and comparative approaches are rare. Social insects are one of the pinnacles of sociality, with societies characterized by reproductive division of labour, one of the major evolutionary transitions in biological organization. While most of the research in the last century has focused on the ultimate reasons favoring cooperation, the methodological advances during the last decade has provided the tools necessary to study the genetic basis of cooperation directly. The “reproductive groundplan hypothesis” (RPGH) has emerged as one potentially powerful explanation for the proximate mechanisms for the evolution of eusociality. It postulates that conserved gene networks, which underlie the reproductive physiology and behavior of solitary insects, were co-opted and modified during the evolution of eusocial insects to generate worker division of labor. This hypothesis is potentially of fundamental and far-reaching importance for our understanding of the mechanistic basis by which eusociality evolved, but empirical evidence in support of the hypothesis is still limited to only a few species. This project will combine large scale phylogenetic tests of the RPGH, with endocrinology, state of the art molecular techniques (RNA interference) and classic behavioral analysis, to investigate if the RPGH applies to ants and therefore represents a general explanatory framework for the evolution of division of labour in social insects. The training in three cutting-edge sets of techniques will provide a step-change in the research capabilities of the applicant, and the results will provide fundamental insights into the proximate and ultimate basis for the evolution of cooperation.
Leaflet | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Credit: EC-GISCO, © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries

Coordinator

THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX

Address

Sussex House Falmer
Bn1 9rh Brighton

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 231 283,20

Administrative Contact

Katherine Lennon (Ms.)

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 626585

Status

Closed project

  • Start date

    1 January 2015

  • End date

    31 December 2016

Funded under:

FP7-PEOPLE

  • Overall budget:

    € 231 283,20

  • EU contribution

    € 231 283,20

Coordinated by:

THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX

United Kingdom