Hybridization may help wood ants cope with climate change - new paper out!

21.6.2021
A recent publication by SpecIAnt group investigates differences in thermal tolerance in wood ants. Genetic variation arising from hybridization may help the ants cope with changing environment.

The study by Raphael Martin-Roy and Elisa Nygård, et al, investigates thermal adaptation in wood ants, and the connection between temperature and genetic variation resulting from hybridization.

The study shows that two wood ant species (Formica polyctena and F. aquilonia) differ in their thermal tolerances. However, while their hybrids were as heat tolerant as the more southern species (F. polyctena), they did not have a similar cold tolerance as their more northern parental species (F. aquilonia). Interestingly, when the researchers studied long-term genetic data from one of the hybrid populations, they showed that the genetic contribution from the parental species varied along years following changes in temperature: on warm years, contribution from the southern species increased, while on cold years contribution from the northern species increased. On long term this can help the ants coping with changing environmental conditions.

A faculty news piece can be read from here (in Finnish):

https://www2.helsinki.fi/fi/uutiset/elamantieteet/risteytyminen-voi-autt...

The publication itself is here:

Raphael Martin-Roy, Elisa Nygård, Pierre Nouhaud, and Jonna Kulmuni: Differences in Thermal Tolerance between Parental Species Could Fuel Thermal Adaptation in Hybrid Wood Ants. 2021. The American Naturalist. https://doi.org/10.1086/715012

https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/715012