Dr. Eyal Privman
Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology
Insect societies are a unique model system for investigating the genetic and evolutionary mechanisms at the basis of animal sociality. Relative to vertebrates, insect social behavior is more mechanistic so it may be easier to find its genetic basis. We study social evolution in ants using genomic tools: next generation sequencing technologies and computational analysis of molecular evolution. 2011 was the year of the genomic revolution for ant research. We used to know close to nothing about the genes of ants and suddenly full genomes are being published. The first seven species were sequenced and published in 2011, and many more since then. These genomic sequences allow us to compare different species and look for the genes responsible for the evolution of sociality in ants. Furthermore, recent dramatic advances in sequencing technologies allow us to use whole genome sequencing of many individuals as a routine tool for focused studies on the recent evolution of social traits in specific systems such as the “social chromosome” of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta or the pheromone signaling responsible for nestmate recognition in Cataglyphis desert ants.