Genes and sociality - nsf.gov National Science...

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NSF Web Site Press Release 11-019 Seeking Social Genes Researchers compare insect genomes to hone in on genes associated with complex social structure The genome of the red harvester ant has more "smell genes" than other insects Credit and Larger Version January 31, 2011 In order understand the evolution of complex societies, researchers are sequencing the genomes of social insects. The most recent data, published this week in the Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , come from several species of ants, including the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus . A team, lead by Arizona State University organismal and systems biology professor Juergen Gadau, sequenced one of the genomes and set out to decipher which genes might be responsible for defining which ants work and which ants reproduce in a red harvester ant colony. Division of labor and reproduction are two crucial characteristics scientists think are important to the evolution of social structure. "Having multiple independently evolved social genomes helps us to better understand which genes are involved in crucial social traits, because those should be highly conserved," Gadau said. In addition to specialization of roles within a colony, researchers argue that
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