The Genomics of Social Organisation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Genetics


Ants, bees and wasps are rightfully recognised for their highly integrated and cooperative societies. These societies exhibit diverse adaptations at a higher level - the level of the colony - not present in the individual members or their free-living ancestors. The evolution of these variable and highly integrated societies therefore offer unparalleled opportunities to study how new levels of biological organisation evolve and diversify. For these colony-level adaptation to evolve genetic variation must underlie them, but knowledge of their genetic basis is limited. However, developments in DNA sequencing has made studying the genomic architecture underlying social organisation an achievable goal.
The ant Leptothorax acervorum varies in social organisation, with the presence or absence of queen dominance hierarchies and worker aggression towards colony queens dictating whether one, or multiple, queens in a colony lays eggs (functional monogyny [FM] versus polygyny [P]). Consequently, P and FM colonies differ in relatedness. We plan to use whole-genome sequencing to assemble reference genomes. We will then sequence many individuals from different populations to gain important information about genetic variation. These data will then allow us to investigate the genetic architecture and genes that underlie these differences in social organisation and evolutionary forces acting. Of particular interest is whether there is one large region of the genome (a "supergene") or many regions scattered through the genome that underlie these differences.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1791010 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 03/10/2016 25/06/2021 Max William John