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Social Insects Roundup

October 9, 2009

Fruit flies and humans share some of the same genes for learning; and one ant species lacks males entirely.


Socially savvy fruitflies. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists at McMaster University in Canada have found that female fruit flies looking to start a family observe where older, experienced females have laid their eggs. Later, they return to lay their own eggs nearby. Believe it or not, fruit flies and humans share some of the same genes involved in learning; studying them can tell us about the development of social interaction in humans.

In other insect news, University of Texas at Austin scientists and their colleagues have discovered a kind of ant that has done away with sex completely. Many social insects have a queen that mates with a male only occasionally. But this species apparently has no males at all. It’s thought that such species will become weak from accumulating mutations just as inbred populations do; researchers hope to study the species to see if this is happening. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.