Wasp gene expression supports an evolutionary link between maternal behavior and eusociality

Amy L. Toth, Kranthi Varala, Thomas C. Newman, Fernando E. Miguez, Stephen K. Hutchison, David A. Willoughby, Jan Fredrik Simons, Michael Egholm, James H. Hunt, Matthew E. Hudson, Gene E. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of workers that forgo reproduction and care for their siblings is a defining feature of eusociality and a major challenge for evolutionary theory. It has been proposed that worker behavior evolved from maternal care behavior. We explored this idea by studying gene expression in the primitively eusocial wasp Polistes metricus. Because little genomic information existed for this species, we used 454 sequencing to generate 391,157 brain complementary DNA reads, resulting in robust hits to 3017 genes from the honey bee genome, from which we identified and assayed orthologs of 32 honey bee behaviorally related genes. Wasp brain gene expression in workers was more similar to that in foundresses, which show maternal care, than to that in queens and gynes, which do not. Insulin-related genes were among the differentially regulated genes, suggesting that the evolution of eusociality involved major nutritional and reproductive pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-444
Number of pages4
Issue number5849
StatePublished - Oct 19 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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