Navigation Links
Stanford scientist uncovers the reproductive workings of a harvester ant dynasty
Date:2/12/2013

Ants are just about everywhere you look, and yet it's largely unknown how they manage to be so ubiquitous. Scientists have understood the carnal mechanism of ant reproduction, but until now have known little of how successful the daughters of a colony are when they attempt to found new colonies.

For the first time, Stanford biologists have been able to identify specific parent ants and their own children in wild ant colonies, making it possible to study reproduction trends.

And in a remarkable display of longevity, an original queen ant was found to be producing new ants several decades after mating, sending out daughter queens throughout her 20- to 30-year lifespan.

"Most animals produce offspring for a while, and then they enter a life stage where they don't," said Deborah Gordon, a biology professor at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "These queen ants are mating once, storing that sperm in a special sac, keeping it alive and using it to fertilize eggs for another 25 years."

From an ecological viewpoint, an ant colony is much like a tree putting out seeds, with the potential to create new trees. An ant queen produces genetically identical worker ants that live in the same colony, and also produces sons, and daughter queens. The daughter queens, after mating, establish new colonies of their own.

Gordon has been studying a particular population of harvester ant colonies in southeastern Arizona for 28 years, meticulously recording when a new colony rises or an older one falls.

Gordon's group took the DNA fingerprint of each colony by analyzing a section of microsatellite, or "junk", DNA to identify which colonies were related. By pairing the genetic analysis with the long-term observations, Gordon was able to determine the original queen and colony, and the order in which the daughter queens and subsequent generations established new colonies.

The researchers also found that only about 25 percent of the colonies reproduce at all, and many of the daughter queens are not successful. The entire population the study group consisted of about 300 colonies relies on just a few queens to make most of the offspring year after year.

"We don't know whether all harvester ant populations always behave this way, or whether these trends hold true for all 11,000 ant species, because nobody has identified colony offspring before," Gordon said. "This gives us new insight on how ant populations change over time."

In general, ants play an important role in agriculture around the world, with some helping to disperse seeds while others eat herbivorous insects. Understanding how populations of ant colonies reproduce and expand, and the rate at which they do so, could be useful in managing invasive ant species, predicting crop yields and understanding the ecology of tropical forests.

"If you're trying to understand how a population grows say, you are trying to keep a population of lions going the first thing you need to know is how many lionesses you have, and how many cubs they have and can support per year," Gordon said. "For ecological purposes, it's very useful to be able to say how ant populations will grow. This is the first step toward understanding how to predict numbers of ant colonies."


'/>"/>

Contact: Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service
bccarey@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Stanford researcher sheds new light on the mysteries of spider silk
2. Stanford geoscientist cites critical need for basic research to unleash promising energy sources
3. Stanford scientists build the first all-carbon solar cell
4. Gladstone, Stanford scientists block toxic protein that plays key role in Lou Gehrigs disease
5. The 2013 HFSP Nakasone Award goes to Stephen Quake of Stanford University
6. Stanford bioengineer Christina Smolke wins NIH Directors Pioneer Award
7. Stanford researchers discover the anternet
8. Stanford expert brings climate change science to heated Capitol Hill
9. Stanford-Penn State scientists use microbes to make clean methane
10. Stanford-SLAC team uses X-ray imaging to observe running batteries in action
11. Stanford researchers calculate global health impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/22/2017)... 2017 With the biometrics market to ... four technologies that innovative and agile startups must ... in the changing competitive landscape: multifactor authentication (MFA), ... "Companies can no longer afford to ... Dimitrios Pavlakis , Industry Analyst at ABI ...
(Date:2/14/2017)... 2017  Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center today announced Julie ... executive officer (CEO). Freischlag joins the medical center on ... , M.D., who last year announced that he would ... after leading it since 2008.   As ... Forest Baptist,s academic health system, which includes Wake Forest ...
(Date:2/9/2017)... The biomass boiler market report by Transparency ... market globally in terms of revenue (US$ Mn) based ... for biomass boilers has been segmented on the basis ... The market based on feedstock type, has been segmented ... energy crops, urban residues, and others. On the basis ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:3/23/2017)... March 23, 2017  Northwest Biotherapeutics (OTCQB: NWBO) ... immune therapies for solid tumor cancers, today announced ... financing it announced last Friday, March 17, 2017. ... institutional investors securities totaling 28,843,692 shares, comprised of ... 10,000,000 shares of Class C Warrants pre-funded at ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... PARK, Calif., March 23, 2017  BioPharmX Corporation ... products for the dermatology market, today reported financial ... 31, 2017, and will provide an update on ... the year. "We are pleased to ... year for BioPharmX," said President Anja Krammer. "We ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... , March 23, 2017 NetworkNewsWire Editorial ... ... putting significant strain on health care systems, in terms of ... rises, so too does the development of innovative and efficient ... effects. Among the many types of cancer treatments, a growing ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... , March 23, 2017 In ... four equities in the Biotech industry: Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. ... Inc. (NYSE MKT: SYN), and Regulus Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... , 2017, Credit Suisse upgraded its rating on Pharmaceuticals/Biotechnology to "Overweight" from ... their free report at: ...
Breaking Biology Technology: