A DNA and morphology based phylogenetic framework of the ant genus Lasius with hypotheses for the evolution of social parasitism and fungiculture

Maruyama, Munetoshi, Steiner, Florian M., Stauffer, Christian, Akino, Toshiharu, Crozier, Ross H., and Schlick-Steiner, Birgit C. (2008) A DNA and morphology based phylogenetic framework of the ant genus Lasius with hypotheses for the evolution of social parasitism and fungiculture. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 8. .

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Abstract

Background: Ants of the genus Lasius are ecologically important and an important system for evolutionary research. Progress in evolutionary research has been hindered by the lack of a well-founded phylogeny of the subgenera, with three previous attempts disagreeing. Here we employed two mitochondrial genes (cytochrome c oxidase subunit I, 16S ribosomal RNA), comprising 1,265 bp, together with 64 morphological characters, to recover the phylogeny of Lasius by Bayesian and Maximum Parsimony inference after exploration of potential causes of phylogenetic distortion. We use the resulting framework to infer evolutionary pathways for social parasitism and fungiculture.

Results: We recovered two well supported major lineages. One includes Acanthomyops, Austrolasius, Chthonolasius, and Lasius pallitarsis, which we confirm to represent a seventh subgenus, the other clade contains Dendrolasius, and Lasius sensu stricto. The subgenus Cautolasius, displaying neither social parasitism nor fungiculture, probably belongs to the second clade, but its phylogenetic position is not resolved at the cutoff values of node support we apply. Possible causes for previous problems with reconstructing the Lasius phylogeny include use of other reconstruction techniques, possibly more prone to instabilities in some instances, and the inclusion of phylogenetically distorting characters.

Conclusion: By establishing an updated phylogenetic framework, our study provides the basis for a later formal taxonomic revision of subgenera and for studying the evolution of various ecologically and sociobiologically relevant traits of Lasius, although there is need for future studies to include nuclear genes and additional samples from the Nearctic. Both social parasitism and fungiculture evolved twice in Lasius, once in each major lineage, which opens up new opportunities for comparative analyses. The repeated evolution of social parasitism has been established for other groups of ants, though not for temporary social parasitism as found in Lasius. For fungiculture, the independent emergence twice in a monophyletic group marks a novel scenario in ants. We present alternative hypotheses for the evolution of both traits, with one of each involving loss of the trait. Though less likely for both traits than later evolution without reversal, we consider reversal as sufficiently plausible to merit independent testing.

Item ID: 6026
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: tropical biology; formicine ants; molecular phylogeny; comparative analysis; morphology; Lasius; symbiosis
ISSN: 1471-2148
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2010 06:17
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0604 Genetics > 060409 Molecular Evolution @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060399 Evolutionary Biology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 9
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