The SO-LONG project:
SOCIALITY AND THE REVERSAL OF THE FECUNDITY/LONGEVITY TRADE-OFF
The So-Long project website moved to another platform.
It will be available again by the end of February 2020.
Why do organisms age? Why is interspecific variation in life expectancies
so great? These are questions of fundamental importance for the general
public and scientists alike. Evolutionary biology explains ageing as a
consequence of the decreasing power of selection with age and of life
history trade-offs where a beneficial change in one trait is often linked
with costs for another trait. Central to ageing is the trade-off between
fecundity and longevity: in virtually all multicellular organisms an increase
in fecundity is associated with a decrease in longevity. A major exception
is found in the social insects, in which the most fecund individuals (the
queens in ants, wasps and bees, and the kings and queens in termites)
live up to two orders of magnitude longer than their sterile workers.
The overarching goal of the SO-LONG project (FOR2281) is to
understand why and how the fecundity/longevity trade-off is remoulded in
social insects. By uncovering the basis to the apparent escape from life
history trade-offs, we expect to understand fundamental biological rules
governing fecundity, longevity, ageing, and health.
Our Research Unit brings together internationally recognized experts in
ecology, evolutionary biology, behavioural biology, molecular biology,
bioinformatics, and scientific computing. Scientists from Germany, the
Netherlands, Switzerland and Brazil collaborate tightly to study the
fecundity/longevity trade-off in relation to sociality across three clades of
social insects (ants, bees, and termites), using solitary model organisms
as a control. With a common set-up of canonical experiments across taxa
that manipulate two crucial factors, food and fecundity, we aim to
disentangle their effects in shaping this trade-off. Using next generation
sequencing (NGS) data, we conduct gene expression analyses and
measure transcriptome changes along with oxidative stress and
endocrine effects. We supplement these data with measures of fitness
(e.g., survival, egg laying rate, colony productivity, sexual offspring
production). These are the basis for overarching cross-taxon analyses
that allow both the identification of key molecular pathways underpinning
life history trade-offs as well as the development of quantitative life history
models by applying a mechanistic socio-evo-devo approach. We thereby
expect to achieve a deeper understanding of the fundamental biological
rules governing central life history traits.
The SO-LONG projects second phase started in October 2018.
For any questions, contact:
Dr. rer. nat.
Evolutionary Biology & Ecology
University of Freiburg, Hauptstr. 1, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany