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Genomic changes underlying speciation of leaf-cutting ants


Recent speciation of leaf-cutting ants has resulted voracious herbivores which are agricultural pests widely distributed throughout the Americas. It has also resulted, in at least two cases, inconspicuous herbivores, restricted inhabitants of fields or restinga which are rarely, if ever, referred as pests. The present research proposal will characterize the genetic alterations underlying leafcutter speciation, generating and analyzing transnscriptomes in order to search for protein-coding genes that individualize 36 populations of six pest and two non pest species. Selective pressures and biological functions associated with these genes will be identified, in order to reconstruct the phenotypic and functional changes underlying the irradiation process that resulted two sibling ant groups from a common ancestor, with three group compositions: (1) one pest and other non-pest species; (2) two pests species; (3) populations within the same species. This procedure will identify molecular markers for populations, non-pest species and pest species. In particular, pest markers may become targets for pest leafcutter control. Generally, all identified markers will be informative for phylogenetic studies with better performance than those currently used, providing high resolution and allowing an innovative functional approach to reconstruct the evolution process of this important group of ants. (AU)

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
AQUINO ZANI, RENATA DE OLIVEIRA; FERRO, MILENE; BACCI JR, MAURICIO. Three phylogenetically distinct and culturable diazotrophs are perennial symbionts of leaf-cutting ants. ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, v. 11, n. 24 DEC 2021. Web of Science Citations: 0.
BARCOTO, MARIANA O.; CARLOS-SHANLEY, CAMILA; FAN, HUAN; FERRO, MILENE; NAGAMOTO, NILSON S.; BACCI, JR., MAURICIO; CURRIE, CAMERON R.; RODRIGUES, ANDRE. Fungus-growing insects host a distinctive microbiota apparently adapted to the fungiculture environment. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, v. 10, n. 1 JUL 24 2020. Web of Science Citations: 5.

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