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Hierarchy Evolution in Insects

October 26th, 2015

Hierarchy Evolution in Insects

For a long time scientists have believed that the hierarchical structure (queen vs. worker) in social insect groups such as ants, bees, and wasps is pretty much set in stone. However, a new study reveals that for ants and wasps that isn’t the case. In a recent study, researchers examined the genes of ants and wasps to see if their social class could be determined by variations in gene expression, in the same way that honeybees are controlled by their queen.

However, no master gene was found that pointed out which insect would be the queen of the group. Instead, many genes help to determine social behavior. Because their genomes remain flexible and open, ants and wasps are able to switch between roles. One day one wasp might be the queen and the next another might take their place at the top of the social hierarchy. As larvae honeybees are fated to step into a certain social role when they become adults, but ants and wasps can change social roles at any point in their lives. Scientists think this is an example of the first stages of caste evolution in these insects. Think about it. This could mean these insects are slowly evolving similar to humans. Who knows, one day they could be ruling the world instead of us.

Have you ever considered the thought that we might not be at the top of the food chain someday? It could very well be ants who rule the world. What are your thoughts on this find?

2 Responses to “Hierarchy Evolution in Insects”

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