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Ants Genetic Engineering Leads To Species Interdependency

he queens are genetically derived from a pure species-specific lineage, whereas all the workers are hybrids that possess a combination of genes from the two species in a single individual. It is not currently known whether the ants benefit from having hybrids do the work, but, as is evident from the researchers' own attempts at selective breeding and genetic engineering, combining genomes is an easy way to produce novel characteristics that may be highly advantageous for growth, environmental tolerance, or disease resistance. Regardless of the specific advantages, however, it is clear that these ants have committed themselves to the hybrid workforce strategy. When the researchers prevented queens from mating with males of the other species, very few succeeded in making any workers at all, a handicap that would lead to certain population failure in the field. The new findings suggest that specialization involving reliance on interspecific hybrid workers has left these species unable to survive independently of one another. Sara Helms Cahan, Glennis E. Julian, Steven W. Rissing, Tanja Schwander, Joel D. Parker, and Laurent Keller: "Loss of Phenotypic Plasticity Generates Genotype-Caste Association in Harvester Ants" Published in Current Biology, Volume 14, Number 24, December 14, 2004, pages 2277?282.
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