Carlos Martinez Ruiz
Project title: Investigating the effects of intralocus social conflict in a social chromosome
Summary: New generation sequencing data is allowing us to understand the proximal mechanisms by which genomes shape the evolution of organisms. Supergenes are a good example of this, as molecular data is providing evidence of the potential role that they could be playing in the evolution of complex phenotypes such as social behaviour. Indeed, a supergene has recently shown to control colony polymorphism in the red fire ant Solenopsis invicta. This ant species displays two social phenotypes, as colonies can either have a single or multiple queens. This result in a range of phenotypical differences between social forms which are fully linked with a supergene referred to as social chromosome.
Theory predicts that the social chromosome will accumulate mutations which are beneficial for either colony phenotype, thus avoiding evolutionary antagonism. This assumption is based on the idea that social chromosomes evolved as sexual chromosomes did. To test this, the project will apply approaches used for studying evolutionary antagonism in sexual chromosomes by comparing transcription patterns between S.invicta social phenotypes. The results will elucidate whether social chromosomes do actually resolve antagonism. Ultimately, this project will shed light on the evolution of supergenes and on their role in determining social behaviour.