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Index > News Blog > News > Nature: What does it mean to be an ant?

Nature: What does it mean to be an ant?

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Genome sequences offer clues on how to be a queen and live a long life.

Some are nomadic warriors, others the world's oldest farmers, and still others power their societies with slavery or child labour such is the diversity of ant communities. A paper published in Science this week sheds light on the molecular forces that drive such differences.

The paper presents the genome sequences of two ant species one (Harpegnathos saltator) with a primitive social structure, and the other, the carpenter ant (Camponotus floridanus), which has a more complex social structure.

Ants of the same species but in different social castes have the same DNA sequence but assume radically different characteristics as a result of 'epigenetic changes' DNA modifications that affect the expression of genes rather than the genes themselves. By examining the sequences from the two ant species, the researchers were able to identify how these epigenetic changes affect the ants' characteristics.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 08:55