New news summary out at Phys.Org about ant colonies and their castes. Seems as if this is all being controlled via epigenetic means.
This is not good news if you’re a population geneticist: you know, phenotype changes because of changed allele frequencies (unless, of course, it doesn’t; and then you call it “phenotypic plasticity.” There’s nothing in life that a label can’t explain!!). Well, I guess not.
In the new findings, an interdisciplinary research team led by senior author Shelley Berger, PhD, from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with teams led by Juergen Liebig from Arizona State University and Danny Reinberg from New York University, found that caste-specific foraging behavior can be directly altered, by changing the balance of epigenetic chemicals called acetyl groups attached to histone protein complexes, around which DNA strands are wrapped in a cell nucleus. . . .
“The results suggest that behavioral malleability in ants, and likely other animals, may be regulated in an epigenetic manner via histone modification,” said lead author Daniel F. Simola, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Penn Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. Simola is co-lead author with Riley Graham, a doctoral student in the Berger lab.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!