Genetic Compatibility Affects Queen and Worker Caste Determination

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Science  24 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5901, pp. 552
DOI: 10.1126/science.1162590

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The development of queen and worker phenotypes in ants has been believed to be largely determined from environmental effects. We provide evidence that the production of discrete phenotypes is also influenced by genetic interaction effects. During the development of eggs into adults, some patrilines among offspring of multiply mated Pogonomyrmex rugosus ant queens became more common in workers while others became overrepresented in queens. Controlled crosses showed that these changes stem from some parental genome combinations being compatible for producing one phenotype but less compatible for the other. Genetic interaction effects on caste may be maintained over evolutionary time because the fitness of an allele depends on its genetic background.

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