News FocusProfile: Laurent Keller

Chasing Ants—and Robots—to Understand How Societies Evolve

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Science  19 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6130, pp. 269-271
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6130.269

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Laurent Keller is fascinated with fire ants, South American invaders that have spread rapidly across the southern United States in the past 80 years. In particular, he has sought to understand why some fire ant colonies support a lone queen, while others form super colonies with multiple queens. This 15-year quest has led to the effort to decipher the genome of Solenopsis invicta and several lines of inquiry that have gone against the grain, including the use of robots. Keller is tenacious, enjoys challenges, and is serious about his research on social behavior in insects, but colleagues say he also is fun to be around.