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Decoding brood pheromone: the releaser and primer effects of young and old larvae on honey bee (Apis mellifera) workers

Description

How a colony regulates the division of labor to forage for nutritional resources while accommodating for changes in colony demography is a fundamental question in the sociobiology of social insects. In honey bee, Apis mellifera, brood composition impacts the division

How a colony regulates the division of labor to forage for nutritional resources while accommodating for changes in colony demography is a fundamental question in the sociobiology of social insects. In honey bee, Apis mellifera, brood composition impacts the division of labor, but it is unknown if colonies adjust the allocation of foragers to carbohydrate and protein resources based on changes in the age demography of larvae and the pheromones they produce. Young and old larvae produce pheromones that differ in composition and volatility. In turn, nurses differentially provision larvae, feeding developing young worker larvae a surplus diet that is more queen-like in protein composition and food availability, while old larvae receive a diet that mimics the sugar composition of the queen larval diet but is restrictively fed instead of provided ad lib. This research investigated how larval age and the larval pheromone e-β ocimene (eβ) impact foraging activity and foraging load. Additional cage studies were conducted to determine if eβ interacts synergistically with queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) to suppress ovary activation and prime worker physiology for nursing behavior. Lastly, the priming effects of larval age and eβ on worker physiology and the transition from in-hive nursing tasks to outside foraging were examined. Results indicate that workers differentially respond to larvae of different ages, likely by detecting changes in the composition of the pheromones they emit. This resulted in adjustments to the foraging division of labor (pollen vs. nectar) to ensure that the nutritional needs of the colony's brood were met. For younger larvae and eβ, this resulted in a bias favoring pollen collection. The cage studies reveal that both eβ and QMP suppressed ovary activation, but the larval pheromone was more effective. Maturing in an environment of young or old larvae primed bees for nursing and impacted important endocrine titers involved in the transition to foraging, so bees maturing in the presence of larvae foraged earlier than control bees reared with no brood.

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Date Created
2014

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A practical and theoretical approach to understanding the selective mechanisms behind genetic caste determination in Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Pogonomyrmex barbatus

Description

Gene-centric theories of evolution by natural selection have been popularized and remain generally accepted in both scientific and public paradigms. While gene-centrism is certainly parsimonious, its explanations fall short of describing two patterns of evolutionary and social phenomena: the evolution

Gene-centric theories of evolution by natural selection have been popularized and remain generally accepted in both scientific and public paradigms. While gene-centrism is certainly parsimonious, its explanations fall short of describing two patterns of evolutionary and social phenomena: the evolution of sex and the evolution of social altruism. I review and analyze current theories on the evolution of sex. I then introduce the conflict presented to gene-centric evolution by social phenomena such as altruism and caste sterility in eusocial insects. I review gene-centric models of inclusive fitness and kin selection proposed by Hamilton and Maynard Smith. Based their assumptions, that relatedness should be equal between sterile workers and reproductives, I present several empirical examples that conflict with their models. Following that, I introduce a unique system of genetic caste determination (GCD) observed in hybrid populations of two sister-species of seed harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Pogonomyrmex barbatus. I review the evidence for GCD in those species, followed by a critique of the current gene-centric models used to explain it. In chapter two I present my own theoretical model that is both simple and extricable in nature to explain the origin, evolution, and maintenance of GCD in Pogonomyrmex. Furthermore, I use that model to fill in the gaps left behind by the contributing authors of the other GCD models. As both populations in my study system formed from inter-specific hybridization, I review modern discussions of heterosis (also called hybrid vigor) and use those to help explain the ecological competitiveness of GCD. I empirically address the inbreeding depression the lineages of GCD must overcome in order to remain ecologically stable, demonstrating that as a result of their unique system of caste determination, GCD lineages have elevated recombination frequencies. I summarize and conclude with an argument for why GCD evolved under selective mechanisms which cannot be considered gene-centric, providing evidence that natural selection can effectively operate on non-heritable genotypes appearing in groups and other social contexts.

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Date Created
2012

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Comparative genomics and novel bioinformatics methodology applied to the green anole reveal unique sex chromosome evolution

Description

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage compensation is a process whereby genes on the sex chromosomes achieve equal gene expression which prevents deleterious side effects from having too much or too little expression of genes on sex chromsomes. The green anole is part of a group of species that recently underwent an adaptive radiation. The green anole has XX/XY sex determination, but the content of the X chromosome and its evolution have not been described. Given its status as a model species, better understanding the green anole genome could reveal insights into other species. Genomic analyses are crucial for a comprehensive picture of sex chromosome differentiation and dosage compensation, in addition to understanding speciation.

In order to address this, multiple comparative genomics and bioinformatics analyses were conducted to elucidate patterns of evolution in the green anole and across multiple anole species. Comparative genomics analyses were used to infer additional X-linked loci in the green anole, RNAseq data from male and female samples were anayzed to quantify patterns of sex-biased gene expression across the genome, and the extent of dosage compensation on the anole X chromosome was characterized, providing evidence that the sex chromosomes in the green anole are dosage compensated.

In addition, X-linked genes have a lower ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates than the autosomes when compared to other Anolis species, and pairwise rates of evolution in genes across the anole genome were analyzed. To conduct this analysis a new pipeline was created for filtering alignments and performing batch calculations for whole genome coding sequences. This pipeline has been made publicly available.

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Date Created
2016

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Geographical Variation in Social Structure, Morphology, and Genetics of the New World Honey Ant Myrmecocystus mendax

Description

Persistent cooperation between unrelated conspecifics rarely occurs in mature eusocial insect societies. In this dissertation, I present evidence of non-kin cooperation in the Nearctic honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax. Using microsatellite markers, I show that mature colonies in the Sierra Ancha

Persistent cooperation between unrelated conspecifics rarely occurs in mature eusocial insect societies. In this dissertation, I present evidence of non-kin cooperation in the Nearctic honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax. Using microsatellite markers, I show that mature colonies in the Sierra Ancha Mountain of central Arizona contain multiple unrelated matrilines, an observation that is consistent with primary polygyny. In contrast, similar analyses suggest that colonies in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona are primarily monogynous. These interpretations are consistent with field and laboratory observations. Whereas cooperative colony founding was observed frequently among groups of Sierra Ancha foundresses, founding in the Chiricahua population was restricted to individual foundresses. Furthermore, Sierra Ancha foundresses successfully established incipient laboratory colonies without undergoing queen culling following emergence of the first workers. Multi-queen laboratory Sierra Ancha colonies also produced more workers and repletes than haplometrotic colonies, and when brood raiding was induced between colonies, queens of those with more workers had a higher survival probability.

Microsatellite analyses of additional locations within the M. mendax range suggest that polygyny is also present in some other populations, especially in central-northern Arizona, albeit at lower frequencies than that in the Sierra Anchas. In addition, analyses of multiple types of genetic data, including microsatellites, the mitochondrial barcoding region, and over 2000 nuclear ultra-conserved elements indicate that M. mendax populations within the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico are geographically structured, with strong support for the existence of two or more divergent clades as well as isolation-by-distance within clades. This structure is further shown to correlate with variation in queen number and hair length, a diagnostic taxonomic feature used to distinguish honey ant species.

Together, these findings suggest that regional ecological pressures (e.g. colony density , climate) may have acted on colony founding and social strategy to select for increasing workforce size and, along with genetic drift, have driven geographically isolated M. mendax populations to differentiate genetically and morphologically. The presence of colony fusion in the laboratory and life history traits in honey ant that are influenced by colony size, including repletism, brood raiding, and tournament, support this evolutionary scenario.

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Created

Date Created
2018