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Genome Evolution in attine aNTS (GENTS)
Start date: Aug 1, 2012, End date: Jul 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"The colonies of eusocial insects (ants, bees, wasps, termites) are second in complexity only to human societies. They evolved by natural selection, in contrast to human sociality which has mostly cultural elements. In addition, insect societies have reproductive division of labor between sterile workers and fertile queens, a form of specialization that resembles germ-line and somatic cell differentiation in metazoan bodies. Social evolution theory increasingly understands the origin and elaboration of multicellular bodies and insect societies in a joint framework of inclusive fitness theory. This approach (A.F.G. Bourke, The Principles of Social Evolution, OUP, 2011) both emphasizes the power of cooperation to achieve higher levels of organization, and the corrupting tendencies emanating from lower-levels of selection that maintain selfish traits. Genomic imprinting is the most fundamental mechanism that maintains selfish tendencies at the genome level, potentially affecting all forms of social life. While genomic imprinting is increasingly well understood in mammals, its frequency and operation in insect societies is unknown. The present proposal aims to resolve this problem by combining Chinese genome sequencing excellence (BGI Shenzhen) with a cutting-edge research program in evolutionary biology (the Copenhagen Centre for Social Evolution) while focusing on one of the best studied social insect models, the fungus-growing ants. The ambitious work proposed is feasible because it is supported by significant additional funding from the combined host institutions. It implies a genome re-sequencing program with multiple components to obtain uniquely detailed insights into the fundamentals of recombination, the epigenetic mechanisms that maintain and regulate genome-level tendencies towards (social) corruption, and the validity of genomic imprinting theory as a general conceptual framework for social evolution at the molecular level."
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