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Sasha Kay, Daniel Skowronski, Brendan G Hunt
DNA methylation is accomplished in animals by two classes of enzymes known as DNA methyltransferases, DNMT3 and DNMT1, which perform de novo methylation and maintenance methylation, respectively. Several studies of hymenopteran eusocial insects suggest that DNA methylation is capable of influencing developmental plasticity. However, fundamental questions remain about the patterning of DNA methylation during the course of insect development. In this study, we performed quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) on transcripts from the single-copy orthologs of DNMT1 and DNMT3 in the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta...
October 24, 2016: Insect Science
Wei Zhang, Arun Wanchoo, Almudena Ortiz-Urquiza, Yuxian Xia, Nemat O Keyhani
Insects interact with the surrounding environment via chemoreception, and in social insects such as ants, chemoreception functions to mediate diverse behaviors including food acquisition, self/non-self recognition, and intraspecific communication. The invasive red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, has spread worldwide, displaying a remarkable environmental adaptability. Odorant binding proteins (OBPs) are chemical compound carriers, involved in diverse physiological processes including odor detection and chemical transport...
October 21, 2016: Scientific Reports
Federico Lopez-Osorio, Kurt M Pickett, James M Carpenter, Bryan A Ballif, Ingi Agnarsson
The phylogenetic relationships among genera of the subfamily Vespinae (yellowjackets and hornets) remain unclear. Yellowjackets and hornets constitute one of the only two lineages of highly eusocial wasps, and the distribution of key behavioral traits correlates closely with the current classification of the group. The potential of the Vespinae to elucidate the evolution of social life, however, remains limited due to ambiguous genus-level relationships. Here, we address the relationships among genera within the Vespinae using transcriptomic (RNA-seq) data...
October 11, 2016: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Cintia A Oi, Jocelyn G Millar, Jelle S van Zweden, Tom Wenseleers
Social insects are known for their reproductive division of labor between queens and workers, whereby queens lay the majority of the colony's eggs, and workers engage mostly in non-reproductive tasks. Queens produce pheromones that signal their presence and fertility to workers, which in turn generally remain sterile. Recently, it has been discovered that specific queen-characteristic cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) function as queen pheromones across multiple lineages of social insects. In the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris, several long-chain linear alkanes and 3-methylalkanes were shown to act as queen signals...
October 8, 2016: Journal of Chemical Ecology
Alice Séguret, Abel Bernadou, Robert J Paxton
In eusocial insects, reversal of the fecundity/longevity trade-off and extreme differences in life histories between castes of the same species garner scientific and public interest. Facultative social species at the threshold of sociality, in which individuals are socially plastic, provide an excellent opportunity to understand the causes and mechanisms underlying this reversal in life history trade-off associated with eusociality. We briefly present the ultimate factors favoring sociality and the association between fecundity and longevity in facultative eusocial insects, including kin selection and disposable soma, as well as proximate mechanisms observed in such species, such as differences in hormone titers and functions...
August 2016: Current Opinion in Insect Science
Boris H Kramer, G Sander van Doorn, Franz J Weissing, Ido Pen
The extraordinarily long lifespans of queens (and kings) in eusocial insects and the strikingly large differences in life expectancy between workers and queens challenge our understanding of the evolution of aging and provide unique opportunities for studying the causes underlying adaptive variation in lifespan within species. Here we review the major evolutionary theories of aging, focusing on their scope and limitations when applied to social insects. We show that reproductive division of labor, interactions between kin, caste-specific gene regulation networks, and the integration of colony-level trade-offs with individual-level trade-offs provide challenges to the classical theories We briefly indicate how these challenges could be met in future models of adaptive phenotypic plasticity in lifespan between and within different castes...
August 2016: Current Opinion in Insect Science
Jane de Verges, Volker Nehring
Social insects have received attention for their extreme lifespan variation and reversal of the fecundity/longevity trade-off. However, proximate causes of senescence in general are disputed, and social insects often fail to meet the predictions of prevailing models. We present evidence for and against the long-held free radical theory of aging in social insects, and consider the application of the competing hyperfunction theory. Current results present problems for both theories, and a more complex picture of the biological processes involved emerges...
August 2016: Current Opinion in Insect Science
Amy L Toth, Seirian Sumner, Robert L Jeanne
The reversal of the fecundity/longevity tradeoff in social insects is striking, but we lack understanding of when and how this reversal evolved. Vespid wasps are excellent models for studying social evolution because species show different levels of sociality from solitary to primitively to advanced eusocial. We provide the first synthesis of existing, but scanty, data available on longevity in vespids. We explore whether the fecundity/longevity tradeoff reversal is exaggerated in species with more derived sociality...
August 2016: Current Opinion in Insect Science
Marisa A Rodrigues, Thomas Flatt
In most animals reproduction trades off with somatic maintenance and survival. Physiologically this trade-off is mediated by hormones with opposite effects on reproduction and maintenance. In many insects, this regulation is achieved by an endocrine network that integrates insulin-like/IGF-1 signaling (IIS), juvenile hormone (JH), and the yolk precursor vitellogenin (Vg) (or, more generally, yolk proteins [YPs]). Downregulation of this network promotes maintenance and survival at the expense of reproduction...
August 2016: Current Opinion in Insect Science
Víctor Hugo Ramírez-Delgado, Salomón Sanabria-Urbán, Martin A Serrano-Meneses, Raúl Cueva Del Castillo
Two patterns commonly emerge when animal body size is analyzed as a function of latitudinal distribution. First, body size increases with latitude, a temperature effect known as Bergmann's rule, and second, the converse to Bergmann's rule, a pattern in which body size decreases with latitude. However, other geographic patterns can emerge when the mechanisms that generate Bergmann's and the converse to Bergmann's clines operate together. Here, we use phylogenetic comparative analysis in order to control for phylogenetic inertia, and we show that bumblebees exhibit the converse to Bergmann's rule...
September 2016: Ecology and Evolution
Boris H Kramer, Ralf Schaible, Alexander Scheuerlein
Eusociality has been recognized as a strong driver of lifespan evolution. While queens show extraordinary lifespans of 20years and more, worker lifespan is short and variable. A recent comparative study found that in eusocial species with larger average colony sizes the disparities in the lifespans of the queen and the worker are also greater, which suggests that lifespan might be an evolved trait. Here, we tested whether the same pattern holds during colony establishment: as colonies grow larger, worker lifespan should decrease...
September 10, 2016: Experimental Gerontology
T Pamminger, A Buttstedt, V Norman, A Schierhorn, C Botías, J C Jones, K Basley, W O H Hughes
Reproduction has been shown to be costly for survival in a wide diversity of taxa. The resulting trade-off, termed the reproduction-survival trade-off, is thought to be one of the most fundamental forces of life-history evolution. In insects the pleiotropic effect of juvenile hormone (JH), antagonistically regulating reproduction and pathogen resistance, is suggested to underlie this phenomenon. In contrast to the majority of insects, reproductive individuals in many eusocial insects defy this trade-off and live both long and prosper...
September 7, 2016: Journal of Insect Physiology
Thomas A O'Shea-Wheller, Deraj K Wilson-Aggarwal, Duncan E Edgley, Ana B Sendova-Franks, Nigel R Franks
Behavioural responses enable animals to react rapidly to fluctuating environments. In eusocial organisms, such changes are often enacted at the group level, but may be organised in a decentralised fashion by the actions of individuals. However, the contributions of different group members are rarely homogenous, and there is evidence to suggest that certain 'keystone' individuals are important in shaping collective responses. Accordingly, investigations of the dynamics and structuring of behavioural changes at both the group and individual level, are crucial for evaluating the relative influence of different individuals...
September 5, 2016: Journal of Experimental Biology
Markus Zöttl, Philippe Vullioud, Rute Mendonça, Miquel Torrents Ticó, David Gaynor, Adam Mitchell, Tim Clutton-Brock
In many cooperative breeders, the contributions of helpers to cooperative activities change with age, resulting in age-related polyethisms. In contrast, some studies of social mole rats (including naked mole rats, Heterocephalus glaber, and Damaraland mole rats, Fukomys damarensis) suggest that individual differences in cooperative behavior are the result of divergent developmental pathways, leading to discrete and permanent functional categories of helpers that resemble the caste systems found in eusocial insects...
September 13, 2016: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Pamela Lyon, Linnda R Caporael
The ultrasociality thesis proposes that the same "mechanistic evolutionary forces" may be at work in the evolution of insect eusociality and human ultrasociality in relation to agriculture. Wide variation in the reproductive division of labor among differing highly social phyla points to a resemblance of outcomes arising from very different selective environments and possibly different forces.
January 2016: Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Karen Kovaka, Carlos Santana, Raj Patel, Erol Akçay, Michael Weisberg
We question the need to explain the onset of agriculture by appealing to the second type of multilevel selection (MLS2). Unlike eusocial insect colonies, human societies do not exhibit key features of evolutionary individuals. If we avoid the mistake of equating Darwinian fitness with health and quality of life, the adoption of agriculture is almost certainly explicable in terms of individual-level selection and individual rationality.
January 2016: Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Michael Hrncir, Stefan Jarau, Friedrich G Barth
Stingless bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponini) are by far the largest group of eusocial bees on Earth. Due to the diversity of evolutionary responses to specific ecological challenges, the Meliponini are well suited for comparative studies of the various adaptations to the environment found in highly eusocial bees. Of particular interest are the physiological mechanisms underlying the sophisticated cooperative and collective actions of entire colonies, which form the basis of the ecological success of the different bee species under the particular conditions prevailing in their respective environment...
October 2016: Journal of Comparative Physiology. A, Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Martin Streinzer, Werner Huber, Johannes Spaethe
Stingless bees constitute a species-rich tribe of tropical and subtropical eusocial Apidae that act as important pollinators for flowering plants. Many foraging tasks rely on vision, e.g. spatial orientation and detection of food sources and nest entrances. Meliponini workers are usually small, which sets limits on eye morphology and thus quality of vision. Limitations are expected both on acuity, and thus on the ability to detect objects from a distance, as well as on sensitivity, and thus on the foraging time window at dusk and dawn...
October 2016: Journal of Comparative Physiology. A, Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Elizabeth J Duncan, Otto Hyink, Peter K Dearden
The hallmark of eusociality is the reproductive division of labour, in which one female caste reproduces, while reproduction is constrained in the subordinate caste. In adult worker honeybees (Apis mellifera) reproductive constraint is conditional: in the absence of the queen and brood, adult worker honeybees activate their ovaries and lay haploid male eggs. Here, we demonstrate that chemical inhibition of Notch signalling can overcome the repressive effect of queen pheromone and promote ovary activity in adult worker honeybees...
2016: Nature Communications
Carolina Mengoni Goñalons, Marie Guiraud, María Gabriela de Brito Sanchez, Walter M Farina
Worker honeybees (Apis mellifera) carry out multiple tasks throughout their adult lifespan. It has been suggested that the insulin/insulin-like signalling pathway participates in regulating behavioural maturation in eusocial insects. Insulin signalling increases as the honeybee worker transitions from nurse to food processor to forager. As behavioural shifts require differential usage of sensory modalities, our aim was to assess insulin effects on olfactory and gustatory responsiveness as well as on olfactory learning in preforaging honeybee workers of different ages...
October 1, 2016: Journal of Experimental Biology
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