Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Biology

First Advisor

Timothy A. Linksvayer

Abstract

The evolutionary transition to eusociality entailed the origin of caste-based division of labor along with novel communication systems to regulate colony division of labor. Despite many recent studies on the genetic mechanisms underlying the transition to eusociality, or superorganismality, it is still largely unknown what genes are important, whether or not similar sets of genes are used in distinct origins of eusociality, and how related genes evolve. In this thesis, I perform large-scale RNA-sequencing experiments to identify genes underlying caste-based division of labor and the social regulation of larval development. I incorporate population genomic data to investigate the selective pressures acting on genes with caste-biased expression or with strong inferred social regulatory effects. I review the theoretical factors governing the evolution of genes associated with caste and interpret previous empirical findings in the field. I close with recommendations for future study into the genetic mechanisms and evolutionary features of the superorganism.

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