Convergent evolution of a social symbiosis
Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, USA
Rove beetles (Staphylinidae) comprise a hugely species-rich clade in which many independent lineages have evolved phenotypically elaborate symbioses with ants. These striking and intimate relationships involve radical changes in behavior and interspecies communication, allowing the beetles to assimilate into ant societies where they live as ‘social parasites’ – stealth intruders that hijack social nest cues to exploit colony resources. I will discuss my laboratory’s efforts to transform rove beetles into a model system for exploring molecular and cellular phenomena underlying the emergence of social behavior and interspecies interactions in the animal kingdom.