Supersized ants changing the way we think about evolution

January 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

A group of researchers from the lab of McGill biology professor Ehab Abouheif recently made a discovery that may help shape the way we think about evolution. Abouheif and his team found that they could “induce” evolutionary changes in the Pheidole ant species thereby turning on advantageous character traits, (such as the development of supersoldier, mega-sized heads), that had not been previously exhibited in the species they were studying. When the researches applied hormones to the ants during a critical phase in their development, the team was able to generate super-species ants in any species that they tried. According to Abouheif, given right combination of stress and circumstances, scientists can turn on the dormant genetic potential which may have been inactive for tens of millions of years.

Take home message according to Abouheif (paraphrasing):

Variation is not as random as we thought. There is this hidden developmental potential that lies dormant waiting to be released. It is the adaptiveness of these potentials which could have enormous power for evolution.

Entry filed under: Biotechnology News and Info from Canadian Universities. Tags: , .

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