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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Nov 24;95(24):14232-7.

Genetic control of social organization in an ant.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2603, USA. kenross@arches.uga.edu


A central issue in evolutionary biology is the extent to which complex social organization is under genetic control. We have found that a single genomic element marked by the protein-encoding gene Gp-9 is responsible for the existence of two distinct forms of social organization in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. This genetic factor influences the reproductive phenotypes and behavioral strategies of queens and determines whether workers tolerate a single fertile queen or multiple queens per colony. Furthermore, this factor affects worker tolerance of queens with alternate genotypes, thus explaining the dramatic differences in Gp-9 allele frequencies observed between the two social forms in the wild. These findings reveal how a single genetic factor can have major effects on complex social behavior and influence the nature of social organization.

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