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Army ants trapped by their evolutionary history.

Delsuc F - PLoS Biol. (2003)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: The Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. F.Delsuc@massey.ac.nz <F.Delsuc@massey.ac.nz>

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As a student in evolutionary biology, I was puzzled by how such an apparently aberrant behavior could have originated and could be maintained during the course of evolution... This natural phenomenon is reproducible in the laboratory and has recently been shown to result from a self-organizing pattern... But now, a phylogenetic study by sheds new light on the origin of this behavior by showing that the answer to the apparent paradox of circular milling lies at least in part in the evolutionary history of these ants... In fact, the formation of circular mills is a somewhat extreme illustration of the obligate collective foraging behavior characteristic of army ants, which are ineffective at foraging solitarily... By using an arsenal of modern phylogenetic methods, Brady has reconstructed the evolutionary history of army ants to test whether army ant syndrome definitely evolved in three separate lineages... Based on the sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear genes, on the analysis of morphological characters, and on a comprehensive taxon sampling of the group, including their closest non–army ant relatives, the author built a robust picture of the phylogenetic relationships among army ants... The evolutionary history of army ants in fact possesses relatively ancient roots and appears to have been shaped by biogeographical processes driven by plate tectonics... Modern molecular and phylogenetic tools now allow the rigorous reconstruction of the history of species by providing a way of inferring both phylogenies and evolutionary timescales... Longstanding evolutionary hypotheses of organismal evolution can therefore be tested by bridging the gap between the paleontological and molecular records of life, an approach that has already been most successfully applied in the case of placental mammal phylogeny... Furthermore, the construction of a phylogenetic framework for army ants promises a better understanding of the behavioral adaptations that have led to the ecological success of this group... Future comparative analyses using the derived phylogeny as a backbone will allow further tests of the respective roles played by natural selection and phylogenetic history in shaping the evolution of morphological and behavioral traits developed by these ants... The accurate reconstruction of the patterns of species diversification is a prerequisite for a detailed understanding of the causal processes that underlie organismal evolution.

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A Representative Individual from the Soldier Caste of the New World Army Ant Species Eciton burchelli with Characteristically Shaped MandiblesIllustration by Nathalie Escure.
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pbio.0000037-g001: A Representative Individual from the Soldier Caste of the New World Army Ant Species Eciton burchelli with Characteristically Shaped MandiblesIllustration by Nathalie Escure.


Army ants trapped by their evolutionary history.

Delsuc F - PLoS Biol. (2003)

A Representative Individual from the Soldier Caste of the New World Army Ant Species Eciton burchelli with Characteristically Shaped MandiblesIllustration by Nathalie Escure.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC261877&req=5

pbio.0000037-g001: A Representative Individual from the Soldier Caste of the New World Army Ant Species Eciton burchelli with Characteristically Shaped MandiblesIllustration by Nathalie Escure.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: The Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. F.Delsuc@massey.ac.nz <F.Delsuc@massey.ac.nz>

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

As a student in evolutionary biology, I was puzzled by how such an apparently aberrant behavior could have originated and could be maintained during the course of evolution... This natural phenomenon is reproducible in the laboratory and has recently been shown to result from a self-organizing pattern... But now, a phylogenetic study by sheds new light on the origin of this behavior by showing that the answer to the apparent paradox of circular milling lies at least in part in the evolutionary history of these ants... In fact, the formation of circular mills is a somewhat extreme illustration of the obligate collective foraging behavior characteristic of army ants, which are ineffective at foraging solitarily... By using an arsenal of modern phylogenetic methods, Brady has reconstructed the evolutionary history of army ants to test whether army ant syndrome definitely evolved in three separate lineages... Based on the sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear genes, on the analysis of morphological characters, and on a comprehensive taxon sampling of the group, including their closest non–army ant relatives, the author built a robust picture of the phylogenetic relationships among army ants... The evolutionary history of army ants in fact possesses relatively ancient roots and appears to have been shaped by biogeographical processes driven by plate tectonics... Modern molecular and phylogenetic tools now allow the rigorous reconstruction of the history of species by providing a way of inferring both phylogenies and evolutionary timescales... Longstanding evolutionary hypotheses of organismal evolution can therefore be tested by bridging the gap between the paleontological and molecular records of life, an approach that has already been most successfully applied in the case of placental mammal phylogeny... Furthermore, the construction of a phylogenetic framework for army ants promises a better understanding of the behavioral adaptations that have led to the ecological success of this group... Future comparative analyses using the derived phylogeny as a backbone will allow further tests of the respective roles played by natural selection and phylogenetic history in shaping the evolution of morphological and behavioral traits developed by these ants... The accurate reconstruction of the patterns of species diversification is a prerequisite for a detailed understanding of the causal processes that underlie organismal evolution.

Show MeSH