Vitellogenin-like A–associated shifts in social cue responsiveness regulate behavioral task specialization in an ant

Philip Kohlmeier, Barbara Feldmeyer, Susanne Foitzik, Daniel Kronauer
2018 PLoS Biology  
Division of labor and task specialization explain the success of human and insect societies. Social insect colonies are characterized by division of labor, with workers specializing in brood care early and foraging later in life. Theory posits that this task switching requires shifts in responsiveness to task-related cues, yet experimental evidence is weak. Here, we show that a Vitellogenin (Vg) ortholog identified in an RNAseq study on the ant T. longispinosus is involved in this process:
more » ... phylogenetic analyses of Vg and Vg-like genes, we firstly show that this candidate gene does not cluster with the intensively studied honey bee Vg but falls into a separate Vg-like A cluster. Secondly, an experimental knockdown of Vglike A in the fat body caused a reduction in brood care and an increase in nestmate care in young ant workers. Nestmate care is normally exhibited by older workers. We demonstrate experimentally that this task switch is at least partly based on Vg-like A-associated shifts in responsiveness from brood to worker cues. We thus reveal a novel mechanism leading to early behavioral maturation via changes in social cue responsiveness mediated by Vg-like A and associated pathways, which proximately play a role in regulating division of labor.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2005747 pmid:29874231 pmcid:PMC5991380 fatcat:4y3zvwwpyzbnddwxwbub57rtyi