Ancient Ants Arose 140-168 Million Years Ago
Ants are considerably older than previously believed, having originated 140 to 168 million years ago, according to new research on the cover of this week's issue of the journal Science.
But these resilient insects, now found in terrestrial ecosystems the world over, apparently began to diversify only about 100 million years ago in concert with the flowering plants, the scientists say.
"This study integrates numerous fossil records and a large molecular data set to infer the evolutionary radiation of ants, which have deeper roots than we thought," said Chuck Lydeard, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.
The study was also supported by the Green Fund.
Led by biologists Corrie Moreau and Naomi Pierce of Harvard University, the researchers reconstructed the ant family tree using DNA sequencing of six genes from 139 representative ant genera, encompassing 19 of 20 ant subfamilies around the world.
"Ants are a dominant feature of nearly all terrestrial ecosystems, and yet we know surprisingly little about their evolutionary history: the major groupings of ants, how they are related to each other, and when and how they arose," said Moreau. "We now have a clear picture of how this extraordinarily dominant - in ecological terms - and successful - in evolutionary terms - group of insects originated and diversified."
Moreau, Pierce and colleagues used a "molecular clock" calibrated with 43 fossils distributed throughout the ant family tree to date key events in the evolution of ants, providing a well-supported estimate for the age of modern lineages. Their conclusion that modern-day ants arose 140 to 168 million years ago pushes back the origin of ants at least 40 million years earlier than had previously been believed based on estimates from the fossil record.
"Our results support the hypothesis that ants were able to capitalize on the ecological opportunities provided by flowering plants and the herbivorous insects that co-evolved with them," said Pierce. The herbivorous insects that evolved alongside flowering plants provided food for the ants.
The researchers found that the poorly known ant subfamily Leptanillinae is the most ancient, followed by two broad groups known as the poneroids (predatory hunting ants) and the formicoids (more familiar species such as pavement ants and carpenter ants).
Other co-authors of the Science paper are Charles Bell at Florida State University and Roger Vila and S. Bruce Archibald in Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology.
AGRI-INFO/APRIL 26, 2006
TITLE: ANCIENT ANTS AROSE 140-168 MILLION YEARS AGO
ALAM BA NINYO NA MAS MATANDA PA SA PANINIWALA NG MGA SIYENTISTA ANG LANGGAM SA PLANETANG ITO, AT NATUKLASAN NA ITO PALA AY NARITO NA MULA 140 HANGGANG 168 MILYUNG TAON NA ANG LUMIPAS?
AYON KAY CHUCK LYDEARD, PROGRAM DIRECTOR NG NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION DIVISION OF ENVIRONMENTAL BIOLOGY, ANG RESULTA NG PAG-AARAL DITO AY MULA SA MGA NAKALAP NA MGA FOSSIL RECORD AT MALAKING MOLECULAR DATA NA NAI-SET PARA SA TINATAWAG NA EVOLUTIONARY RADIATION NG LANGGAM.
SA PANGUNGUNA NINA BIOLOGISTS CORRIE MOREAU AT NAOMI PIERCE NG HARVARD UNIVERSITY, NI-RECONSTRUCT NILA ANG ANT FAMILY TREE SA PAMAMAGITAN NG DNA SEQUENCING NG ANIM NA GENES MULA SA 139 REPRESENTATIVE ANT GENERA, KUMAKATAWAN SA 19 NG 20 ANT SUBFAMILIES SA BUONG PLANETA.
INAMIN NI MOREAU, NA BAGAMAN ANG LANGGAM AY ITINUTURING NA DOMINANTENG NILALANG SA HALOS LAHAT NG TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEM SA MUNDO, KAKAUNTI LAMANG ANG ALAM DITO NG MGA SIYENTISTA LALU NA SA KANILANG EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY, KUNG ANO ANG KAUGNAYAN NILA SA ISAT ISA AT KUNG KAILAN AT PAANO SILA LUMITAW AT NABUHAY.
SINA MOREAU, PIERCE AT IBA PA NILANG KASAMAHAN AY GUMAMIT NG MOLECULAR CLOCK AT NATUKLASAN NILA NA APATNAPUNG MILYUNG TAON NA MAS MATAGAL NA NABUHAY ANG MGA LANGGAM SA PLANETANG ITO KESA SA UNANG PANINIWALA NA ITO AY NASA 100 YEARS OLD LANG.