Neil Tsutsui presents a public talk at UC Berkeley on May 21st, 2011, as part of the Science@Cal Lecture Series described at scienceatcal.berkeley.edu/lectures
Social insects dominate many terrestrial ecosystems by forming sophisticated and cooperative colonies. One species, the invasive Argentine ant, has taken this sociality to an extreme – forming massive “supercolonies” across hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of kilometers. Recent studies using synthetic ant pheromones, genomics, behavioral experiments, and old-fashioned field-work have reveal some of the inner workings of these massive societies, and provided explanations for their origin.
Neil Tsutsui is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. The research in his lab focuses on ants and bees - how they communicate, why they behave the ways they do, their ecology, and their evolution. In recent years, Prof. Tsutsui has been studying how individuals recognize each other as partners or foes. In ants, this process involves various types of learning and memory, as well as the expression and detection of specific chemical odors on each other’s exoskeletons. Future research will focus on applying approaches from genetics, genomics, chemistry and field ecology to understanding how the behaviors of individuals dictate the structure of complex and cooperative social groups.
Videography and editing by Chris Klein and James Anderson. This video is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License - creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us