Kin-selection theory underlies our basic understanding of social evolution [1, 2]. Nest drifting in eusocial insects (where workers move between nests) presents a challenge to this paradigm, since a worker should remain as a helper on her natal colony, rather than visit other colonies to which she is less closely related. Here we reveal nest drifting as a strategy by which workers may maximize their indirect fitness by helping on several related nests, preferring those where the marginal return from their help is greatest. By using a novel monitoring technique, radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging, we provide the first accurate estimate of drifting in a eusocial insect: 56% of females drifted in a natural population of the eusocial paper wasp Polistes canadensis, exceeding previous records of drifting in natural populations by more than 30-fold. We demonstrate that drifting cannot be explained through social parasitism, queen succession, mistakes in nest identity, or methodological bias. Instead, workers appear to gain indirect fitness benefits by helping on several related colonies in a viscous population structure. The potential importance of this strategy as a component of the kin-selected benefits for a social insect worker has previously been overlooked because of methodological difficulties in quantifying and studying drifting.
Thoughts on sociality and longevity are pervasive in human consciousness because of our strong social bonds and our fear of death. Furthermore, we understand that sociality and longevity are linked, because we inherently recognize the risks that social isolation poses to a long and healthy life. What is less widely appreciated is that sociality and longevity may not only affect each other at the scale of an individual's life, but also throughout the evolution of species. For example, because our species is both social and long-lived relative to most other mammals, it has been proposed that our longevity may be due at least in part to our social mode of life (Carey & Judge,
BackgroundPolymorphisms in the copy number of a genetic region can influence gene expression, coding sequence and zygosity, making them powerful actors in the evolutionary process. Copy number variants (CNVs) are however understudied, being more difficult to detect than single nucleotide polymorphisms. We take advantage of the intense selective pressures on the major malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, caused by the widespread use of insecticides for malaria control, to investigate the role of CNVs in the evolution of insecticide resistance.ResultsUsing the whole-genome sequencing data from 1142 samples in the An. gambiae 1000 genomes project, we identified 1557 independent increases in copy number, encompassing a total of 267 genes, which were enriched for gene families linked to metabolic insecticide resistance. The five major candidate genes for metabolic resistance were all found in at least one CNV, and were often the target of multiple independent CNVs, reaching as many as 16 CNVs in Cyp9k1. These CNVs have furthermore been spreading due to positive selection, indicated by high local CNV frequencies and extended haplotype homozygosity.ConclusionsOur results demonstrate the importance of CNVs in the response to selection, with CNVs being closely associated with genes involved in the evolution of resistance to insecticides, highlighting the urgent need to identify their relative contributions to resistance and to track their spread as the application of insecticide in malaria endemic countries intensifies. Our detailed descriptions of CNVs found across the species range provides the tools to do so.
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Copy number variation (CNV) in insect genomes is a rich source of potentially adaptive polymorphism which may help overcome the constraints of purifying selection on conserved genes and/or permit elevated transcription. Classic studies of amplified esterases and acetylcholinesterase duplication in Culex pipiens quantified evolutionary dynamics of CNV driven by insecticidal selection. A more complex and potentially medically impactful form of CNV is found in Anopheles gambiae, with both heterogeneous duplications and homogeneous amplifications strongly linked with insecticide resistance. Metabolic gene amplification, revealed by shotgun sequencing, appears common in Aedes aegypti, but poorly understood in other mosquito species. Many methodologies have been used to detect CNV in mosquitoes, but relatively few can detect both duplications and amplifications, and contrasting methods should be combined. Genome scans for CNV have been rare to date in mosquitoes, but offer immense potential to determine the overall role of CNV as a component of resistance mechanisms.
The spread of resistance to insecticides in disease-carrying mosquitoes poses a threat to the effectiveness of control programmes, which rely largely on insecticide-based interventions. Monitoring mosquito populations is essential, but obtaining phenotypic measurements of resistance is laborious and error-prone. High-throughput genotyping offers the prospect of quick and repeatable estimates of resistance, while also allowing resistance markers to be tracked and studied. To demonstrate the potential of highly-mulitplexed genotypic screening for measuring resistance-association of mutations and tracking their spread, we developed a panel of 28 known or putative resistance markers in the major malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, which we used to screen mosquitoes from a wide swathe of Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Kenya). We found resistance association in four markers, including a novel mutation in the detoxification gene Gste2 (Gste2-119V). We also identified a duplication in Gste2 combining a resistance-associated mutation with its wild-type counterpart, potentially alleviating the costs of resistance. Finally, we describe the distribution of the multiple origins of kdr resistance, finding unprecedented diversity in the DRC. This panel represents the first step towards a quantitative genotypic model of insecticide resistance that can be used to predict resistance status in An. gambiae.
Understanding why organisms senesce is a fundamental question in biology. One common explanation is that senescence results from an increase in macromolecular damage with age. The tremendous variation in lifespan between genetically identical queen and worker ants, ranging over an order of magnitude, provides a unique system to study how investment into processes of somatic maintenance and macromolecular repair influence lifespan. Here we use RNAseq to compare patterns of expression of genes involved in DNA and protein repair of age-matched queens and workers. There was no difference between queens and workers in 1-day-old individuals, but the level of expression of these genes increased with age and this up-regulation was greater in queens than in workers, resulting in significantly queen-biased expression in 2-month-old individuals in both legs and brains. Overall, these differences are consistent with the hypothesis that higher longevity is associated with increased investment into somatic repair.
Phenotypic plasticity, where a single genome can give rise to different phenotypes, underlies many remarkable features of the natural world and occurs in a wide range of organisms. Understanding the transcriptional differences that underlie plastic phenotypes remains a major unsolved problem in biology. In many ants, females can develop into either queens or workers, two phenotypes with different morphology, behaviour and longevity. In comparison with workers, queens are larger, more fecund and longer lived. Here, we study gene expression differences between queens and workers in the ant Lasius niger. The analysis of age- and tissue-specific RNA sequencing showed that patterns of caste-biased gene expression vary considerably between ages and tissues. Expression was more tightly linked to age than caste despite the important morphological and behavioural differences between queens and workers. Our data allowed us to identify genes that are consistently biased across biological contexts. Caste-biased genes showed faster rates of molecular evolution, lower levels of DNA methylation and greater variability in expression than unbiased genes. Our results indicate that a substantial proportion of caste-biased expression is ephemeral and that taking account of age and tissue is critical to understanding the transcriptomic basis of plastic phenotypes. By contrast, the biological context of expression bias did not broadly affect methylation or the rate of evolution. The faster rate of evolution and greater variability of expression of caste-biased genes indicate that caste-biased genes evolve from loosely regulated genes that can be co-opted for caste-specific tasks because of the lax control over their expression.
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