Genomic signature of kin selection in an ant with obligately sterile workers
Kin selection is thought to drive the evolution of cooperation and conflict, but the specific genes and genome-wide patterns shaped by kin selection are unknown. We identified thousands of genes associated with the sterile ant worker caste, the archetype of an altruistic phenotype shaped by kin selection, and then used population and comparative genomic approaches to study patterns of molecular evolution at these genes. Consistent with population genetic theoretical predictions, worker-upregulated genes showed relaxed adaptive evolution compared to genes upregulated in reproductive castes. Worker-upregulated genes included more taxonomically-restricted genes, indicating that the worker caste has recruited more novel genes, yet these genes also showed relaxed selection. Our study identifies a putative genomic signature of kin selection and helps to integrate emerging sociogenomic data with longstanding social evolution theory.
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