Evolution of novel mosaic castes in ants: Modularity, phenotypic plasticity, and colonial buffering

Mathieu Molet, Diana E Wheeler, Christian Peeters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many ants have independently evolved castes with novel morphology as well as function, such as soldiers and permanently wingless (ergatoid) queens. We present a conceptual model, based on modularity in morphology and development, in which evolutionary innovation is facilitated by the ancestral ant polyphenism of winged queens and wingless workers. We suggest that novel castes evolved from rare intercastes, anomalous mosaics of winged queens and workers, erratically produced by colonies through environmental or genetic perturbations. The colonial environment is highly accommodating and buffers viable intercastes from individual selection. Their cost is limited because they are diluted by the large number of nestmates, yet some can bring disproportionate benefits to their colonies in the context of defense or reproduction (e.g., wingless intercastes able to mate). Useful intercastes will increase in frequency as their morphology is stabilized through genetic accommodation. We show that both soldiers and ergatoid queens are mosaics of winged queens and workers, and they are strikingly similar to some intercastes. Modularity and developmental plasticity together with winged/wingless polyphenism thus allow for the production of highly variable mosaic intercastes, and colonies incubate the advantageous mosaics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-341
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume180
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Fingerprint

caste
phenotypic plasticity
buffering
queen insects
ant
Formicidae
colony defense
plasticity
innovation
buffers
perturbation
mosaic
cost

Keywords

  • Caste
  • Development
  • Ergatoid queen
  • Intercaste
  • Polyphenism
  • Soldier

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Evolution of novel mosaic castes in ants : Modularity, phenotypic plasticity, and colonial buffering. / Molet, Mathieu; Wheeler, Diana E; Peeters, Christian.

In: American Naturalist, Vol. 180, No. 3, 09.2012, p. 328-341.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{86e83be645464d9db25bbd56b65b3617,
title = "Evolution of novel mosaic castes in ants: Modularity, phenotypic plasticity, and colonial buffering",
abstract = "Many ants have independently evolved castes with novel morphology as well as function, such as soldiers and permanently wingless (ergatoid) queens. We present a conceptual model, based on modularity in morphology and development, in which evolutionary innovation is facilitated by the ancestral ant polyphenism of winged queens and wingless workers. We suggest that novel castes evolved from rare intercastes, anomalous mosaics of winged queens and workers, erratically produced by colonies through environmental or genetic perturbations. The colonial environment is highly accommodating and buffers viable intercastes from individual selection. Their cost is limited because they are diluted by the large number of nestmates, yet some can bring disproportionate benefits to their colonies in the context of defense or reproduction (e.g., wingless intercastes able to mate). Useful intercastes will increase in frequency as their morphology is stabilized through genetic accommodation. We show that both soldiers and ergatoid queens are mosaics of winged queens and workers, and they are strikingly similar to some intercastes. Modularity and developmental plasticity together with winged/wingless polyphenism thus allow for the production of highly variable mosaic intercastes, and colonies incubate the advantageous mosaics.",
keywords = "Caste, Development, Ergatoid queen, Intercaste, Polyphenism, Soldier",
author = "Mathieu Molet and Wheeler, {Diana E} and Christian Peeters",
year = "2012",
month = "9",
doi = "10.1086/667368",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "180",
pages = "328--341",
journal = "American Naturalist",
issn = "0003-0147",
publisher = "University of Chicago",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Evolution of novel mosaic castes in ants

T2 - Modularity, phenotypic plasticity, and colonial buffering

AU - Molet, Mathieu

AU - Wheeler, Diana E

AU - Peeters, Christian

PY - 2012/9

Y1 - 2012/9

N2 - Many ants have independently evolved castes with novel morphology as well as function, such as soldiers and permanently wingless (ergatoid) queens. We present a conceptual model, based on modularity in morphology and development, in which evolutionary innovation is facilitated by the ancestral ant polyphenism of winged queens and wingless workers. We suggest that novel castes evolved from rare intercastes, anomalous mosaics of winged queens and workers, erratically produced by colonies through environmental or genetic perturbations. The colonial environment is highly accommodating and buffers viable intercastes from individual selection. Their cost is limited because they are diluted by the large number of nestmates, yet some can bring disproportionate benefits to their colonies in the context of defense or reproduction (e.g., wingless intercastes able to mate). Useful intercastes will increase in frequency as their morphology is stabilized through genetic accommodation. We show that both soldiers and ergatoid queens are mosaics of winged queens and workers, and they are strikingly similar to some intercastes. Modularity and developmental plasticity together with winged/wingless polyphenism thus allow for the production of highly variable mosaic intercastes, and colonies incubate the advantageous mosaics.

AB - Many ants have independently evolved castes with novel morphology as well as function, such as soldiers and permanently wingless (ergatoid) queens. We present a conceptual model, based on modularity in morphology and development, in which evolutionary innovation is facilitated by the ancestral ant polyphenism of winged queens and wingless workers. We suggest that novel castes evolved from rare intercastes, anomalous mosaics of winged queens and workers, erratically produced by colonies through environmental or genetic perturbations. The colonial environment is highly accommodating and buffers viable intercastes from individual selection. Their cost is limited because they are diluted by the large number of nestmates, yet some can bring disproportionate benefits to their colonies in the context of defense or reproduction (e.g., wingless intercastes able to mate). Useful intercastes will increase in frequency as their morphology is stabilized through genetic accommodation. We show that both soldiers and ergatoid queens are mosaics of winged queens and workers, and they are strikingly similar to some intercastes. Modularity and developmental plasticity together with winged/wingless polyphenism thus allow for the production of highly variable mosaic intercastes, and colonies incubate the advantageous mosaics.

KW - Caste

KW - Development

KW - Ergatoid queen

KW - Intercaste

KW - Polyphenism

KW - Soldier

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84864654520&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84864654520&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1086/667368

DO - 10.1086/667368

M3 - Article

C2 - 22854076

AN - SCOPUS:84864654520

VL - 180

SP - 328

EP - 341

JO - American Naturalist

JF - American Naturalist

SN - 0003-0147

IS - 3

ER -