Sex-Linked Genetic Influence on Caste Determination in a Termite

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Science  09 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5852, pp. 985-987
DOI: 10.1126/science.1146711

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The most ecologically successful and destructive termite species are those with both a nymph caste and an irreversibly wingless worker caste. The early developmental bifurcation separating these castes is widely accepted to be strictly environmentally determined. We present evidence that genotype also influences this process. Offspring from four different crosses of nymph- and worker-derived secondary reproductive individuals had strongly differentiated caste and sex ratios, despite uniform rearing conditions. These data fit an X-linked, one-locus-two-allele model. Of five possible genotypes, one was lethal, two resulted in workers, and two resulted in either nymphs or environmentally determined workers. Caste is thus controlled both by environment and by a complex genetic inheritance pattern.

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