University of Oulu

Jackson, R., Monnin, D., Patapiou, P.A. et al. Convergent evolution of a labile nutritional symbiosis in ants. ISME J 16, 2114–2122 (2022).

Convergent evolution of a labile nutritional symbiosis in ants

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Author: Jackson, Raphaella1; Monnin, David1; Patapiou, Patapios A.1,2;
Organizations: 1School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, E1 4NS, UK
2Department of Pathobiology and Population Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, AL9 7TA, UK
3Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, 90014, Finland
4Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, Hanko, Finland
5Zoology/Evolutionary Biology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, 93040, Germany
6Alan Turing Institute, London, NW1 2DB, UK
7Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, 1015, Lausanne, Switzerland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 4.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-11-18


Ants are among the most successful organisms on Earth. It has been suggested that forming symbioses with nutrient-supplementing microbes may have contributed to their success, by allowing ants to invade otherwise inaccessible niches. However, it is unclear whether ants have evolved symbioses repeatedly to overcome the same nutrient limitations. Here, we address this question by comparing the independently evolved symbioses in Camponotus, Plagiolepis, Formica and Cardiocondyla ants. Our analysis reveals the only metabolic function consistently retained in all of the symbiont genomes is the capacity to synthesise tyrosine. We also show that in certain multi-queen lineages that have co-diversified with their symbiont for millions of years, only a fraction of queens carry the symbiont, suggesting ants differ in their colony-level reliance on symbiont-derived resources. Our results imply that symbioses can arise to solve common problems, but hosts may differ in their dependence on symbionts, highlighting the evolutionary forces influencing the persistence of long-term endosymbiotic mutualisms.

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Series: The ISME journal
ISSN: 1751-7362
ISSN-E: 1751-7370
ISSN-L: 1751-7362
Volume: 16
Issue: 9
Pages: 2114 - 2122
DOI: 10.1038/s41396-022-01256-1
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This research utilised Queen Mary’s Apocrita HPC facility, supported by QMUL Research-IT [90]. This project was funded by L.M.H.’s NERC IRF (NE/M018016/1), and Marie Curie (H2020-MSCA-IF- 2017-796778-SYMOBLIGA).
Dataset Reference: All data collected in association with this paper, alongside associated genome assemblies, are available under BioProject accession PRJNA639935.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit