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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Arizona State University
  • Christian Rabeling
  • (480) 727-0655
Award Date:12/10/2019
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 991,826
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 149,808
  • FY 2020=$149,808
Start Date:01/15/2020
End Date:12/31/2024
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.074
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:CAREER: Exploring the patterns and mechanisms of ant social parasite speciation and evolution: integrating teaching and research to foster biodiversity discovery in organismal evol
Federal Award ID Number:1943626
DUNS ID:943360412
Parent DUNS ID:806345658
Program:Systematics & Biodiversity Sci
Program Officer:
  • David Cannatella
  • (703) 292-7870

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:09

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Arizona State University
Street:P.O. Box 876011
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

This research will unravel the evolutionary history of a complex parasite-host system, specifically, ant species that are parasites of the colonies of other ant species. This parasite-host system has evolved many times across ant species, but it is unknown how this convergently evolved behavior has affected speciation patterns in the social parasites. The project uses an integrative approach that includes (i) reconstructing the speciation patterns and the evolutionary history of ant social parasites using genetic data from ant genomes; (ii) unearthing the global biodiversity of ant social parasites using new methods to biodiversity discovery to effectively delimit species and revise the classification of ant social parasites across the ant tree of life; (iii) deciphering the genetic mechanisms underlying the formation of new social parasite species. In summary, this project integrates several approaches to understand organismal evolutionary biology, exploring how parasitic lineages originate repeatedly. Understanding the origin and maintenance of biological diversity is a major goal in evolutionary biology. Speciation by evolving reproductive isolation in allopatry is well accepted. However, theoretical and empirical studies have established that reproductive isolation can evolve in sympatry, in the absence of geographical isolation. Empirical evidence for sympatric speciation has been accumulating from studies of ant inquiline social parasites. Inquiline parasites inhabit the living space of other species. The social parasites of ants are other ant species, often closely related, that are highly specialized brood parasites. The parasitic species exploit their hosts’ social organization to selfishly maximize their individual reproductive output. In contrast to other species that evolved via sympatric speciation, the diverse assemblage of ant social parasites is a promising and underutilized system for comparative study because at the moment approximately 390 ant social parasite species are known from 34 genera. The high number of independently evolved parasite species provides unique conditions for comparative research exploring the ecological circumstances and the genetic mechanisms associated with the independent evolutionary origins of ant social parasites. This project integrates research, education, and outreach, and will therefore benefit society in general. Graduate and undergraduate students will be trained in organismal evolutionary biology in both the laboratory and the field, and novel undergraduate field biology classes will be developed at Arizona State University (ASU). Collaborations with colleagues in South America and Europe will facilitate the international exchange of students and long-term enhancement of a global scientific community. The outreach program will (i) train teachers at elementary, middle, and high schools with high percentages of under-represented and disadvantaged groups in the Phoenix Metro area, (ii) integrate community colleague students into teaching and research activities at ASU, (iii) use social parasites as a tool to start a conversation about controversial or socially loaded metaphors in science, and (iv) offer student workshops to integrate social and brood parasitism research across the animal kingdom. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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