A big day for ant science! Four new genomes are public.
These genomes complement two already-released projects, bringing the total to six. Yes, six. A year ago we didn’t have one, and now the floodgates are open.
Although these latest efforts are not the first ant genomes out, today’s announcement is in some respects more significant than the earlier one. Those of us who work in a comparative context- learning by contrasting traits among disparate taxa- now have enough data to start weighing the genomes against each other in a meaningful way.
I should note that I am a co-author on one of the papers (I played a minor role annotating an odorant-binding gene array in Linepithema), so my commentary here is not exactly dispassionate. Nonetheless, I will be posting my impressions of the research this week as time permits.
Until then, here’s a bestiary of the newly-sequenced species:
The Argentine ant is one of the world’s most pernicious pest ants, spreading from its native South America to warmer regions around the world. It frequently displaces native species, altering the local ecology, and it also invades homes and greenhouses. This species has become a model social insect for studies of nestmate recognition and for studies of ecological invasions. Click for the genome.
The red harvester ant is an iconic desert insect of the American southwest, its enormous nests visible even from satellite photos. This granivorous species has been a model for studying ant social behavior and the genetics of speciation. Click for the genome.
Atta cephalotes is one of several giant leafcutter species native to Central and South America. These ants are true farmers, tending to underground fungus gardens fed with cut vegetation. They are of interest for their highly modified caste structure and for the complexity of their agricultural interactions. Click for the genome.
The red imported fire ant- another South American insect- is the most studied ant species of all time. Since its arrival in the southern United States from Brazil in the 1930′s, the fire ant and its memorable sting have achieved a sort of infamy. The new genome will complement an extensive scientific literature. Click for the genome.
[note: at the time of this post, not all genomes have yet been released on genbank, though they should have been. grrrr....]
***update*** the genomes are blastable here
- Smith, C. D. et al. 2011. Draft genome of the globally widespread and invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). PNAS published ahead of print January 31, 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1008617108
- Wurm, Y. et al. 2011. The genome of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. PNAS published ahead of print January 31, 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1009690108
- Smith, C. R. et al. 2011. Draft genome of the red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus. PNAS published ahead of print January 31, 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1007901108