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Convergent eusocial evolution is based on a shared reproductive groundplan plus lineage-specific plastic genes

By Michael R. Warner, Lijun Qiu, Michael J Holmes, Alexander S. Mikheyev, Timothy A. Linksvayer

Posted 26 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/454645 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10546-w)

Eusociality has convergently evolved multiple times, but the genomic basis of caste-based division of labor and degree to which independent origins of eusociality have utilized common genes remain largely unknown. Here we characterize caste-specific transcriptomic profiles across development and adult body segments from pharaoh ants ( Monomorium pharaonis ) and honey bees ( Apis mellifera ), representing two independent origins of eusociality. We identify a substantial shared core of genes upregulated in the abdomens of queen ants and honey bees that also tends to be upregulated in mated female flies, suggesting that these genes are part of a conserved insect reproductive groundplan. Outside of this shared groundplan, few genes are differentially expressed in common. Instead, the majority of the thousands of caste-associated genes are plastically-expressed, rapidly evolving, and relatively evolutionarily young. These results emphasize that the recruitment of both highly conserved and lineage-specific genes underlie the convergent evolution of novel traits such as eusociality.

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