Diet or regular? Decoding behavioral variation in ant clones

The ant species Strumigenys membranifera used in the experiments. Credit: Eisuke Hasegawa.

Clonal ants appear to be diverse in responding to sweetened water, suggesting epigenetic regulation in behavioral variation and colony survival.

Genetically identical ‘clonal ants’ show surprising diversity in their attraction to sweetness, according to new research in the journal Royal Society Open Science. While differences in behavior and preferences among a species are usually attributed to genetic variation, the cause of multiple ‘phenotypes’ is less clear-cut for ants that are identical clones.

Colonies of some ant species such as Strumigenys membranifera reproduce by asexually cloning themselves, so have the same genes, with the exception of random mutations. Thus, their reactions to sweetened water should be the same if determined from birth.

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