Social Systems Biology



hello my name is mike goethe sman and I'm a faculty member in the school of biology at Georgia Tech in Atlanta Georgia and I'm here to tell you a little bit about the research that we're conducting in my group and we study social biology in a very broad sense and specifically we're interested in understanding social systems and by social systems here I mean any groups of animals that work together and help each other in order to advance and if you want more information off with this website up front right here come visit us and learn more about what we do for now what I'd like to do is introduce you to some of our research that we are conducting and I'm first going to tell you that we are interested in Sochi ality and why are we interested in Sochi ality that's because the evolution of sociality represents one of the major transition points in biological history broadly speaking we're interested in understanding what are the causes and consequences of sociality we study sociality and insects in the social insects and these typically include the ants bees wasps and termites and social insects are particularly interesting because they show such high levels of cooperation and helping behavior they also have a remarkable caste system down here for example you can see a fire ant queen with some workers and here we see a yellow jacket queen with her workers and the social system that the social insects display has made them among the most successful of animal taxa so what I'd like to do here is just show you an example of some of the bugs we work on this is an actual video of a yellowjacket nest we collected and if you look you can see some individuals flying in and out here this is typically what you'd see not much to see here we get a little bit closer you can see these yellow jackets are coming in and out of an entrance hole and a good number of them coming in and out every minute surprisingly however what you what is interesting is when you dig underground as we do is the kind of nest that these social groups can create and what you'll see in the next frame here is the actual nest that we are pulling out and you'll see we're in honey bee suits so it's not to get stung but you can see this massive nest that we pulled out of the ground even though we just saw a little hole in the ground and so here we've collected this yellow jacket nest we're going to bring it back to our lab and analyze it analyzed the individuals calculate the relatedness their development all kinds of things what I want to show you here is this actual nest show us the social insects here this large individual is actually the queen of the colony and she's surrounded by her worker offspring and so here we can really see the extraordinary example of sociality where we have these different individuals working together cooperating in order to succeed so I'd like to just take a minute and tell you about some of our research we are interested as I said in all aspects of sociality one major branch of our research concerns social insects as invaders social insects are highly successful invasive species and we study a variety of invasive social insects using molecular genetic and population genetic techniques shown here and we have found that social insect colonies tend to be larger longer lived and contain more reproductives in their invasive habitats this is an ongoing area of research we also study mating behavior in social insects systems and this is a particularly interesting area of study because the mating biology of social insects determines how the social systems operate and so we use control laboratory mating experiments along with analysis of natural colonies as you saw earlier along and genetic analyses and we have found for example that multiple mating by social insect Queens seems to increase the fitness of the colony another branch of our research concerns the castes and the development of casts casts are one of the most remarkable traits of social insects and we are studying a variety of social insects that show dramatic cast these are termites here's a fire ant queen and her workers and we use genomic analyses of gene expression in order to understand differences among cast members and we have found that social insects produce adaptive forms by varying the patterns of gene expression and finally a relatively new area for us is understanding the causes and consequences of social insect genome evolution so we're interested in understanding of social behavior affects social insect genomes so we have studied model social insects such as the honeybee and used bioinformatics and computational analyses and found that social behaviors as well as a very important mechanism of DNA methylation seem to impact genome evolution and so in conclusion I would like again to invite you to come visit our website I like to thank the members of our lab group who have participated in the research and thank you very much for your time and I hope to see you and hear from you later




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