Dissecting ant recognition systems in the age of genomics

By February 12, 2015Ants, Workgroup 3

Author(s): Neil D. Tsutsui

Publication: biology letters

Publication Date: 2013

Introduction: The defining feature of societies is the recognition of group members by others within the society, and the associated exclusion of non-members [1]. As recognized by Hamilton [2,3], social insect colonies are typically comprised of relatives, and thus colonymate recognition (often referred to as ‘nest-mate recognition’) can serve as a proxy for kin recognition. Since Hamilton’s work, social insects have proved to be fruitful models for illuminating some aspects of kin recognition, whereas other processes, such as within-colony kin recognition and nepotism, have found less or mixed support (e.g. [4,5]). Recognition at the between-colony level has been demonstrated in many taxa and, in some cases, the specific mechanisms involved in colonymate recognition are becoming clear. In recent years, there have been rapid advances in genetics and genomics, for both social insects and model organisms. Draft genome sequences have been published for a number of eusocial insects, including seven ant species [6–11], revealing myriad candidate genes for signal production and signal perception in colonymate recognition systems. At the same time, functional genetic tools offer powerful approaches to test hypotheses about the structure and function of recognition systems. Here, I discuss some of the ways that these recent advances may inform studies of recognition systems.

View & Download