Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Stanford scientist uncovers the reproductive workings of a harvester ant dynasty

13.02.2013
For the first time, scientists have measured how successfully a queen ant establishes new colonies. The work by Stanford researchers revealed that the queen was still reproducing several decades after mating.
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," Gordon said. "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.

Deborah Gordon, a biology professor at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, 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."

The study was published Jan. 31 in the online version of the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Media Contact

Deborah Gordon, Biology: (650) 725-6364, dmgordon@stanford.edu

Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-1944, bccarey@stanford.edu

Bjorn Carey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

Further reports about: DNA ant colonies ant species crop yield tropical forest

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How to detect water contamination in situ?
22.09.2016 | Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU)

nachricht Quantifying the chemical effects of air pollutants on oxidative stress and human health
12.09.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Synthese-chemischer Meilenstein: Neues Ferrocenium-Molekül entdeckt

Wissenschaftler der Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) haben zusammen mit Kollegen der Freien Universität Berlin ein neues Molekül entdeckt: Die Eisenverbindung in der seltenen Oxidationsstufe +4 gehört zu den Ferrocenen und ist äußerst schwierig zu synthetisieren.

Metallocene werden umgangssprachlich auch als Sandwichverbindungen bezeichnet. Sie bestehen aus zwei organischen ringförmigen Verbindungen, den...

Im Focus: Neue Entwicklungen in der Asphären-Messtechnik

Kompetenzzentrum Ultrapräzise Oberflächenbearbeitung (CC UPOB) lädt zum Expertentreffen im März 2017 ein

Ob in Weltraumteleskopen, deren Optiken trotz großer Abmessungen nanometergenau gefertigt sein müssen, in Handykameras oder in Endoskopen − Asphären kommen in...

Im Focus: Mit OLED Mikrodisplays in Datenbrillen zur verbesserten Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion

Das Fraunhofer-Institut für Organische Elektronik, Elektronenstrahl- und Plasmatechnik FEP arbeitet seit Jahren an verschiedenen Entwicklungen zu OLED-Mikrodisplays, die auf organischen Halbleitern basieren. Durch die Integration einer Bildsensorfunktion direkt im Mikrodisplay, lässt sich u.a. die Augenbewegung in Datenbrillen aufnehmen und zur Steuerung von Display-Inhalten nutzen. Das verbesserte Konzept wird erstmals auf der Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE), vom 18. – 19. Oktober 2016, in Berlin, Stand B25 vorgestellt.

„Augmented Reality“ (erweiterte Realität) und „Wearable Displays“ (tragbare Displays) sind Schlagworte, denen man mittlerweile fast täglich begegnet. Beide...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Künstliche Intelligenz ermöglicht die Entdeckung neuer Materialien

Mit Methoden der künstlichen Intelligenz haben Chemiker der Universität Basel die Eigenschaften von rund 2 Millionen Kristallen berechnet, die aus vier verschiedenen chemischen Elementen zusammengesetzt sind. Dabei konnten die Forscher 90 bisher unbekannte Kristalle identifizieren, die thermodynamisch stabil sind und als neuartige Werkstoffe in Betracht kommen. Das berichten sie in der Fachzeitschrift «Physical Review Letters».

Elpasolith ist ein glasiges, transparentes, glänzendes und weiches Mineral mit kubischer Kristallstruktur. Erstmals entdeckt im El Paso County (USA), kann man...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Einsteins Geburtsstadt wird für eine Woche Hauptstadt der Physik

23.09.2016 | Veranstaltungen

Industrie und Wissenschaft diskutieren künftigen Mobilfunk-Standard 5G auf Tagung in Kassel

23.09.2016 | Veranstaltungen

Fachgespräch Feste Biomasse diskutiert Fragen zum Thema "Qualitätshackschnitzel"

23.09.2016 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Das Korallenthermometer muss neu justiert werden

23.09.2016 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Doppel-Infektion macht Erreger aggressiver

23.09.2016 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Synthese-chemischer Meilenstein: Neues Ferrocenium-Molekül entdeckt

23.09.2016 | Biowissenschaften Chemie