Laurent Keller

University of Lausanne

Ants, Sex Chromosomes and Social Evolution

Monday 17 February 2014

Location: Oxford Martin School, Old Indian Institute, 34 Broad Street, Oxford

Abstract: The fire ant Solenopsis invicta is characterized by a social polymorphism. In the monogyne social form colonies always contain a single queen, whereas polygynous colonies contain numerous queens. The two social forms differ in many other important aspects of their biology, including the level of aggression between colonies and how new colonies are initiated. These important behavioural differences are also associated with a suite of morphological and life-history differences, including queen fecundity, their tendency to accumulate fat during sexual maturation, the odour of mature queens, the number of sperm produced by males, and the size of workers. In this talk I will show that all these differences are mediated by a pair of heteromorphic chromosomes that have many of the key properties of sex chromosomes.

Biography: Laurent Keller holds a PhD in Zoology from the University of Lausanne and did postdoctoral research at several institutions, including the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. He has been Head of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne since 2000.