Deborah Gordon, Doctoral (Program)
The physiology of forager hydration and variation among harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) colonies in collective foraging behavior.
2019; 9 (1): 5126
Ants are abundant in desiccating environments despite their high surface area to volume ratios and exposure to harsh conditions outside the nest. Red harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) colonies must spend water to obtain water: colonies lose water as workers forage outside the nest, and gain water metabolically through seeds collected in foraging trips. Here we present field experiments showing that hydrated P. barbatus foragers made more foraging trips than unhydrated nestmates. The positive effect of hydration on foraging activity is stronger as the risk of desiccation increases. Desiccation tests showed that foragers of colonies that reduce foraging in dry conditions are more sensitive to water loss, losing water and motor coordination more rapidly in desiccating conditions, than foragers of colonies that do not reduce foraging in dry conditions. Desiccation tolerance is also associated with colony reproductive success. Surprisingly, foragers that are more sensitive to water loss are from colonies more likely to produce offspring colonies. This could be because the foragers of these colonies conserve water with a more cautious response to desiccation risk. An ant's hydration status may influence its response to the olfactory interactions that regulate its decision to leave the nest to forage. Thus variation among ant colonies in worker physiology and response to ambient conditions may contribute to ecologically significant differences among colonies in collective behavior.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-019-41586-3
View details for PubMedID 30914705
The Role of Dopamine in the Collective Regulation of Foraging in Harvester Ants.
Colonies of the red harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) differ in how they regulate collective foraging activity in response to changes in humidity. We used transcriptomic, physiological, and pharmacological experiments to investigate the molecular basis of this ecologically important variation in collective behavior among colonies. RNA sequencing of forager brain tissue showed an association between colony foraging activity and differential expression of transcripts related to biogenic amine and neurohormonal metabolism and signaling. In field experiments, pharmacological increases in forager brain dopamine titer caused significant increases in foraging activity. Colonies that were naturally most sensitive to humidity were significantly more responsive to the stimulatory effect of exogenous dopamine. In addition, forager brain tissue significantly varied among colonies in biogenic amine content. Neurophysiological variation among colonies associated with individual forager sensitivity to humidity may reflect the heritable molecular variation on which natural selection acts to shape the collective regulation of foraging.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.isci.2018.09.001
View details for PubMedID 30270022
- Partner Pen Play in Parallel (PPPiP): A New PPPiParadigm for Relationship Improvement ARTS 2018; 7 (3)
Foraging behavior and locomotion of the invasive Argentine ant from winter aggregations.
2018; 13 (8): e0202117
The collective behavior of ant colonies, and locomotion of individuals within a colony, both respond to changing conditions. The invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) thrives in Mediterranean climates with hot, dry summers and colder, wet winters. However, its foraging behavior and locomotion has rarely been studied in the winter. We examined how the foraging behavior of three distinct L. humile colonies was related to environmental conditions and the locomotion of workers during winter in northern California. We found that colonies foraged most between 10 and 15°C, regardless of the maximum daily temperature. Worker walking speed was positively associated with temperature (range 6-24°C) and negatively associated with humidity (range 25-93%RH). All colonies foraged during all day and night hours in a predictable daily cycle, with a correlation between the rate of incoming and outgoing foragers. Foraging activity was unrelated to the activity of a competing native ant species, Prenolepis imparis, which was present in low abundance, and ceased only during heavy rain when ants left foraging trails and aggregated in small sheltered areas on trees.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0202117
View details for PubMedID 30092038
The MutAnts Are Here
2017; 170 (4): 601–2
The development of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene knockout in two ant species opens a new window into exploring how social insects use olfactory cues to organize their collective behavior.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.046
View details for Web of Science ID 000407445700003
View details for PubMedID 28802035
Context-dependent expression of the foraging gene in field colonies of ants: the interacting roles of age, environment and task.
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
2016; 283 (1837)
Task allocation among social insect workers is an ideal framework for studying the molecular mechanisms underlying behavioural plasticity because workers of similar genotype adopt different behavioural phenotypes. Elegant laboratory studies have pioneered this effort, but field studies involving the genetic regulation of task allocation are rare. Here, we investigate the expression of the foraging gene in harvester ant workers from five age- and task-related groups in a natural population, and we experimentally test how exposure to light affects foraging expression in brood workers and foragers. Results from our field study show that the regulation of the foraging gene in harvester ants occurs at two time scales: levels of foraging mRNA are associated with ontogenetic changes over weeks in worker age, location and task, and there are significant daily oscillations in foraging expression in foragers. The temporal dissection of foraging expression reveals that gene expression changes in foragers occur across a scale of hours and the level of expression is predicted by activity rhythms: foragers have high levels of foraging mRNA during daylight hours when they are most active outside the nests. In the experimental study, we find complex interactions in foraging expression between task behaviour and light exposure. Oscillations occur in foragers following experimental exposure to 13 L : 11 D (LD) conditions, but not in brood workers under similar conditions. No significant differences were seen in foraging expression over time in either task in 24 h dark (DD) conditions. Interestingly, the expression of foraging in both undisturbed field and experimentally treated foragers is also significantly correlated with the expression of the circadian clock gene, cycle Our results provide evidence that the regulation of this gene is context-dependent and associated with both ontogenetic and daily behavioural plasticity in field colonies of harvester ants. Our results underscore the importance of assaying temporal patterns in behavioural gene expression and suggest that gene regulation is an integral mechanism associated with behavioural plasticity in harvester ants.
View details for DOI 10.1098/rspb.2016.0841
View details for PubMedID 27581876
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5013789
- Full speed ahead to the City on the Hill SCIENCE 2016; 352 (6288): 886–89
Lessons from the colony
2016; 352 (6288): 888
View details for Web of Science ID 000382148500003
Influence of nuclear structure on the formation of radiation-induced lethal lesions
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF RADIATION BIOLOGY
2016; 92 (5): 229-240
Purpose The rejoining of fragmented nuclear DNA caused by ionizing radiation may lead to lethal chromosome rearrangements, such as rings or dicentrics. The clinically useful linear quadratic relationship between dose and cell survival has been interpreted as the generation of lethal lesions secondary to damage occurring in two separate chromosomes simultaneously (α component), or as potentially repairable separate events (β component). Here, the generation of such lesions is discussed, synthesizing existing knowledge with new insights gleaned from spatial proximity data made possible by high-throughput sequencing of chromosome conformation capture experiments. Over a range of several Mbp, the linear DNA strand is organized as a fractal globule generating multiple sites of contact that may facilitate deletions or inversions if the points of contact are damaged. On a larger scale, transcriptionally active euchromatin occupies a physically identifiable space separate from inactive areas and is preferentially susceptible to free radical attack after irradiation. Specific transcriptional programs link genomic locations within that space, potentially enhancing their interaction if subject to simultaneous fragmentation by a single radiation event. Conclusions High throughput spatial analysis of the factors that control chromosome proximity has the potential to better describe the formation of the lethal chromosome aberrations that kill irradiated cells.
View details for DOI 10.3109/09553002.2016.1144941
View details for Web of Science ID 000375624000001
View details for PubMedID 26917327
Could ehrlichial infection cause some of the changes associated with leukemia, myelodysplastic diseases and autoimmune disorders, and offer antibiotic treatment options?
2015; 85 (6): 891-893
We hypothesize that a large group of medical conditions of unknown etiology including leukemia, multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic and autoimmune disorders, may be associated with or caused by an obscure group of intracellular obligate parasitic bacteria named Ehrlichia/Anaplasma (EA). Ensconced in the stem cells of the bone marrow, EA may disrupt the normal development and function of many of the cells of immunity, manifesting itself as different syndromes. Recent studies of the activity of EA suggest direct effects on the immune system consistent with the manifestations of leukemia. We reference here three leukemia patients with direct or indirect evidence of EA infection. Moreover, EA have been shown to be most sensitive to rifamycins. Two moribund leukemia patients with levels of platelets and white cells incompatible with life were treated with therapeutic doses of Rifampin. Though they did not survive, their condition improved dramatically for a time, suggesting Rifampin provided some therapeutic benefit. We assert that these results warrant more extensive study.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.mehy.2015.09.015
View details for PubMedID 26394545
Large-Scale Coding Sequence Change Underlies the Evolution of Postdevelopmental Novelty in Honey Bees
MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION
2015; 32 (2): 334-346
Whether coding or regulatory sequence change is more important to the evolution of phenotypic novelty is one of biology's major unresolved questions. The field of evo-devo has shown that in early development changes to regulatory regions are the dominant mode of genetic change, but whether this extends to the evolution of novel phenotypes in the adult organism is unclear. Here, we conduct ten RNA-Seq experiments across both novel and conserved tissues in the honey bee to determine to what extent postdevelopmental novelty is based on changes to the coding regions of genes. We make several discoveries. First, we show that with respect to novel physiological functions in the adult animal, positively selected tissue-specific genes of high expression underlie novelty by conferring specialized cellular functions. Such genes are often, but not always taxonomically restricted genes (TRGs). We further show that positively selected genes, whether TRGs or conserved genes, are the least connected genes within gene expression networks. Overall, this work suggests that the evo-devo paradigm is limited, and that the evolution of novelty, postdevelopment, follows additional rules. Specifically, evo-devo stresses that high network connectedness (repeated use of the same gene in many contexts) constrains coding sequence change as it would lead to negative pleiotropic effects. Here, we show that in the adult animal, the converse is true: Genes with low network connectedness (TRGs and tissue-specific conserved genes) underlie novel phenotypes by rapidly changing coding sequence to perform new-specialized functions.
View details for DOI 10.1093/molbev/msu292
View details for Web of Science ID 000350050700004
View details for PubMedID 25351750
- Commentary: Portuguese crypto-Jews: the genetic heritage of a complex history. Frontiers in genetics 2015; 6: 261-?