School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Emeline Favreau


PhD student



Project title: One or multiple ant queens? The genetic architectures underlying convergent evolution of a fundamental social trait

Summary: The ant colony epitomises social organisation at its highest level, often pictured with workers surrounding one queen. The number of reproductive mated females varies between species, from zero to multiple queens. A few species possess both single-queen colonies and multiple-queen colonies. The genetic basis of this major transition in social organisation was recently found in the form of a supergene in two phylogenetically distant ant species.
We propose to evaluate the extent of social polymorphism in the ant family. We need to know what the genetic architectures underlying convergent evolution of this social trait are, and how this major transition occurred in the ant evolution. 20 species with single-queen colony and multiple-queen colony will be obtained, from a field work in Spain and from external collaborators. DNA sequencing, performed at QMUL, will allow the comparison of genetic markers associated with each social form. In-depth bioinformatic analysis will determine the origin and the relative age of the shift between single-queen colony and multiple-queen colony.

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