Long-molecule sequencing to understand the evolution of social supergenes.


Variation in social behaviour is common, yet little is known about the genetics underpinning its evolution. The >40,000 species of ants and bees present unique opportunities to investigate this.

We discovered that alternate supergene variants carried by a pair of “social chromosomes” determine whether a fire ant colony accepts exactly one or up to hundreds of queens. Surprisingly, similar social polymorphism and underlying supergene architectures convergently evolved multiple times. Many questions remain about such regions, but detailed analyses are infeasible with traditional Illumina data.

This project will use long-molecule sequencing (Nanopore/Sequel/Irys) to examine the birth and evolution of social supergenes. 


Wang J, Wurm Y, Nipitwattanaphon M, Riba-Grognuz O, Huang YC, Shoemaker D, Keller L (2013) A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. Nature. 493:664-8.


Purcell J, Brelsford A, Wurm Y, Perrin N, Chapuisat M (2014) Convergent genetic architecture underlies social organization in ants. Current Biology. 24:2728-32.


Wright AR, Dean R, Zimmer F, Mank JE (2016) How to make a sex chromosome. Nature Communications in press


Lee H, Gurtowski J, Yoo S, Nattestad M, Marcus S, Goodwin S, McCombie WR, Schatz M (2016) Third-generation sequencing and the future of genomics. bioRxiv. 048603.


Priyam A, Woodcroft BJ, Rai V, Munagala A, Moghul I, Ter F, Gibbins MA, Moon H, Leonard G, Rumpf W, Wurm Y (2015) Sequenceserver: a modern graphical user interface for custom BLAST databases. bioRxiv. 033142.

Biological Areas:



Genes, development and STEM approaches to biology