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Population Genetics of the Socially Parasitic Ant Solenopsis daguerrei
April 9 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am EDT
Our departmental seminar speaker this week (Friday, April 9, 2021) is Allyson Dekovich, who will be presenting her M.S. Proposal Seminar titled “Population Genetics of the Socially Parasitic Ant Solenopsis daguerrei.”
Join us at 10:30 am EST/9:30 am CST on Friday via the Zoom link information that is provided at the end of this message.
Ants are miniscule creatures in size, yet are massive in terms of their ecological roles and contributions to our knowledge of various biological processes. Ants form complex societies and their social lifestyles have been the subject of numerous theoretical and empirical studies of kin selection and altruism, evolution of social behavior, rapid evolution to changing environments, coevolution and species interactions, and community ecology. Ants are found on nearly every landmass and display a remarkable ability to adapt to new or varying habitats. One consequence of this is that several species are among the most notorious invasive insect pests. One notable ant pest is the highly invasive ﬁre ant, Solenopsis invicta. This species was introduced to the USA from their native South American range in the 1930s. Solenopsis invicta subsequently spread throughout the southeastern USA and are considered signiﬁcant pests wherever they occur. Numerous eﬀorts have focused on identifying potential biological control agents of ﬁre ants to mitigate their negative impacts. One promising species is the parasitic ant Solenopsis daguerrei. This species lacks a worker caste and relies solely on a host colony to rear its brood. S. daguerrei parasitizes several ﬁre ant species including S. invicta. Field studies demonstrate parasitized colonies have reduced numbers of queens and decreased brood production. However, laboratory attempts to rear this parasitic ant have failed. The goal of this project is to conduct a detailed population genetics study employing various approaches, from traditional F-statistics to newer Bayesian methods, to characterize patterns of genetic structure within and among parasite populations. Results of this study will ﬁll in knowledge gaps regarding the poorly known biology and natural history of this parasite (e.g., mating structure, degree of host speciﬁcity, species delimitation), information which in turn may serve as a guide for biological control research aimed at mitigating S. invicta population densities in the USA.