Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History are using 20 to 100 million year old amber specimens (fossilized tree resin) from deposits around the world to understand how ants evolved from an ancestral solitary wasp into the diverse and abundant group of social creatures they are today. Fossil and modern specimens in the AMNH, as well as in museums in Russia, England, France, and Brazil are being studied using X-Ray-based 3d reconstruction and traditional light microscopy. These data are being combined with published DNA sequences from modern ants and analyzed to produce a clear pattern of evolution through time and the major physiological, behavioral, and ecological features that aided in diversification.
Ants are one of the greatest success stories in nature. At present there are over 12,000 species of ants, with an estimated biomass at least equal to all humans. This project seeks to fundamentally inform other studies relating to behavior, ecology, systematics, and developmental biology by detailing relationships among these model organisms in a novel way. In addition, because ants are very familiar and recognizable to the public, there is tremendous potential for outreach. The co-PI has and will continue to educate K-12 students and the museum-going public using ants as a model for understanding biological concepts at large.
|Effective start/end date||6/1/13 → 2/28/15|
- National Science Foundation: $15,527.00