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The genome of the clonal raider ant Cerapachys biroi.

Oxley P.R., Ji L., Fetter-Pruneda I., McKenzie S.K., Li C., Hu H., Zhang G., Kronauer D.J.

Social insects are important models for social evolution and behavior. However, in many species, experimental control over important factors that regulate division of labor, such as genotype and age, is limited. Furthermore, most species have fixed queen and worker castes, making it difficult to establish causality between the molecular mechanisms that underlie reproductive division of labor, the hallmark of insect societies. Here we present the genome of the queenless clonal raider ant Cerapachys biroi, a powerful new study system that does not suffer from these constraints. Using cytology and RAD-seq, we show that C. biroi reproduces via automixis with central fusion and that heterozygosity is lost extremely slowly. As a consequence, nestmates are almost clonally related (r = 0.996). Workers in C. biroi colonies synchronously alternate between reproduction and brood care, and young workers eclose in synchronized cohorts. We show that genes associated with division of labor in other social insects are conserved in C. biroi and dynamically regulated during the colony cycle. With unparalleled experimental control over an individual's genotype and age, and the ability to induce reproduction and brood care, C. biroi has great potential to illuminate the molecular regulation of division of labor.

Curr. Biol. 24:451-458(2014) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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