Meet the Beetles!
May 7, 2018 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Hail the matriarch: the world’s only colony-building beetle

Truly Oz is Oz.
Well, lethally venomous fauna aside...
“We know that bees, ants and termites have castes, with particular roles they might carry out for life,” says Smith.

“In the most extreme case, we see individuals give up the chance to reproduce to serve the colony. This is the first time we’ve described the details of this advanced form of sociality in a beetle, despite there being close to 400,000 species of beetles in the world.”

Smith and her colleagues wondered how the colony structure evolved.

“Lifelong devotion of workers is likely key to establishing and surviving in this challenging environment, inside a living tree, and we wanted to understand what drives these beetles to organise their social colony life in this way,” she says.

“Why do these worker beetles give up their opportunity to ever reproduce?”

In order to answer that question, the team, including co-author Deborah Kent, Macquarie University’s Adam Stow and Jacobus Boomsma from the University of Copenhagen, conducted a detailed study of 468 ambrosia beetle colonies, known as galleries, and the genetic composition of 559 specimens (including workers, pupae, larvae and eggs) from 33 galleries.

The researchers confirmed that each colony is established by a single queen who has only been inseminated by a single male.

“Our work confirms that high relatedness among colony members was first needed for a social system with sterile worker castes to evolve,” says Stow.

The research demonstrates that the evolution of sterile workers comes about through parental monogamy, and very close relatedness between members in a colony.
Just like us humans !

See also
posted by y2karl (3 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I misunderstood “Cosmos Magazine” as “Cosmo Msgazine,” and thought “science writing is cropping up everywhere...”

Also, fascinating beetles, although I was bummed out that the digging members of the colony destroy their legs in the process. They need to talk to the termites, maybe....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:48 PM on May 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I should point out that the fungus, cultivated and moved from tree to tree in specialized organs on the beetle called Mycangia, possibly can grow nowhere else besides in the tunnels of the beetle, and are asexual clones.
posted by acrasis at 4:16 PM on May 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

Cultivars, in other words, like kava kava in the Greater Pacific.
posted by y2karl at 4:39 PM on May 7, 2018

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