SGER: Microarray Analysis of Caste Ontogeny in a Social Insect

Project: Research project

Project Details


James Howell Hunt


SGER: Microarray analysis of caste ontogeny in a social insect

The interplay of environment and development shapes individuals and animal societies. The starting point, however, is in the genes. New tools of molecular biology are giving new insights into roles played by each factor: genes, environment, and development; and how they relate to one another in shaping the natural world. Social insects, including pest ants and termites, pose special challenges to understanding. Thus, it is both timely and important to take advantage of new molecular biology technologies to identify specific genes that are affected by the environment as they regulate the development of a social insect colony. A simple insect society is more suitable for experimental molecular biology than are large colonies of fire ants or termites. The objective of the research, therefore, is to employ a new molecular tool, a microarray of genes, to identify specific genes in a paper wasp species that are affected by the environment as they regulate the development of workers and reproductives in the wasp colony. An important broader impact of the research is that the results should be widely applicable to ants, bees, and termites, including economically important species such as pest ants and endangered pollinators such as bumble bees. As an additional broader impact, undergraduate students will be given training and experience in several levels of biological research (behavior, ecology, molecular biology), and these students will go on to advanced training and careers in conservation, ecology, or biomedicine. To learn the molecular basis of development in a colony of social insects can be the gateway to new and deeper understanding of the interplay of genes, environment, and development, and it can also give us new research tools for future investigations for both control and protection of some of the world's most ecologically important insects.

Effective start/end date5/1/0810/31/09


  • National Science Foundation: $28,717.00


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