Vitellogenin-like A–associated shifts in social cue responsiveness regulate behavioral task specialization in an ant

  • Division of labor and task specialization explain the success of human and insect societies. Social insect colonies are characterized by division of labor, with workers specializing in brood care early and foraging later in life. Theory posits that this task switching requires shifts in responsiveness to task-related cues, yet experimental evidence is weak. Here, we show that a Vitellogenin (Vg) ortholog identified in an RNAseq study on the ant T. longispinosus is involved in this process: using phylogenetic analyses of Vg and Vg-like genes, we firstly show that this candidate gene does not cluster with the intensively studied honey bee Vg but falls into a separate Vg-like A cluster. Secondly, an experimental knockdown of Vg-like A in the fat body caused a reduction in brood care and an increase in nestmate care in young ant workers. Nestmate care is normally exhibited by older workers. We demonstrate experimentally that this task switch is at least partly based on Vg-like A–associated shifts in responsiveness from brood to worker cues. We thus reveal a novel mechanism leading to early behavioral maturation via changes in social cue responsiveness mediated by Vg-like A and associated pathways, which proximately play a role in regulating division of labor.
Author:Philip Kohlmeier, Barbara FeldmeyerORCiD, Susanne Foitzik
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):PLoS biology
Place of publication:Lawrence, KS
Contributor(s):Daniel Kronauer
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2018
Date of first Publication:2018/06/06
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2018/06/07
Tag:Animal sociality; Ants; Fats; Foraging; Gene expression; Honey bees; Insects; Social systems
Issue:(6): e2005747
Page Number:26
First Page:1
Last Page:26
Copyright: © 2018 Kohlmeier et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Institutes:Angeschlossene und kooperierende Institutionen / Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft
Fachübergreifende Einrichtungen / Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum (BiK-F)
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0