• Foraging gene expression patterns in queens, workers, and males in a eusocial insect

      Awde, David N.; Skandalis, Adonis; Richards, Miriam (NRC Research Press, 2021)
      Reproductive division of labour is based on biased expression of complementary parental behaviours, brood production (egg-laying) by queens and brood care (in particular, brood provisioning) by workers. In many social insect species, queens provision brood when establishing colonies at the beginning of a breeding season and reproductive division of labour begins with the emergence of workers. In many social insect species, the expression of foraging (for) mRNA is associated with the intensity of foraging behaviour, and therefore brood provisioning. However, only two studies have compared queen and worker for expression levels, and neither accounted for transcript splice variation. In this study, we compare the expression level of the for-α transcript variant across four life stages of the queen caste, two behavioural groups of workers, and males of a eusocial sweat bee Lasioglossum laevissimum (Smith, 1853). Foundresses collected prior to the onset of the foraging season and males had the highest for-α expression levels. All active (post-hibernatory) queens and workers had similar for-α expression levels independent of behaviour. These results suggest that the for gene in L. laevissium acts as a primer before foraging activity, and that caste-specific expression patterns correlate with the timing of foraging activity in queens and workers.