The importance of genomic novelty in social evolution

Seirian Sumner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Insect societies dominate the natural world: They mould landscapes, sculpt habitats, pollinate plants, sow seeds and control pests. The secret to their success lies in the evolution of queen (reproductive) and worker (provisioner and carer) castes (Oster & Wilson ). A major problem in evolutionary biology is explaining the evolution of insect castes, particularly the workers (Darwin ). Next-generation sequencing technologies now make it possible to understand how genomic material is born, lost and reorganized in the evolution of alternative phenotypes. Such analyses are revealing a general role for novel (e.g. taxonomically restricted) genes in phenotypic innovations across the animal kingdom (Chen et al. ). In this issue of molecular ecology, Feldmeyer et al. () provide overwhelming evidence for the importance of novel genes in caste evolution in an ant. Feldmeyer et al.'s study is important and exciting because it cements the role of genomic novelty, as well as conservation, firmly into the molecular jigsaw of social evolution. Evolution is eclectic in its exploitation of both old and new genomic material to generate replicated phenotypic innovations across the tree of life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-8
Number of pages3
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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