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Ant mutation


bl4ster
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Im doing project about evolution.I picked ants because of their fast reproduction and short life.I'm going to put them in diffrend conditions and see if they can adapt/mutate.I wanted to increase mutations by exposing them to something that can do it,but I can not find anything,so please help.

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Im doing project about evolution.I picked ants because of their fast reproduction and short life.I'm going to put them in diffrend conditions and see if they can adapt/mutate.I wanted to increase mutations by exposing them to something that can do it,but I can not find anything,so please help.

 

 

Well then you have a problem, ants do not reproduce fast, only one ant, the queen lays eggs and she only mates once in her life, none of the worker ants reproduce at all. Many experiments like you describe use fruit flies because they do reproduce fast. Google fruit fly research to see what I mean.

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Any substance that causes mutation is a "mutagen" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutagen . By definition, the potent ones are also usually pretty dangerous things too and not the sort of thing you can generally use safely at home. Worker ants, the ones you see out and about at home are sterile. Even if you could mutate them, they don't have offspring.

 

While a nice idea, your experimental design needs work.

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Is this a school project? If so check with your teacher/instructor before conducting live animal experiments.

 

1) Since you have a single breeding individual in a colony (i.e. the queen) in terms of experimental design your proposal is not much different to using a single individual. The most likely outcome from mutagenic exposure is death. http://mostgene.org/gd/gdvol12f.htm In turn, the most likely outcome is a failed experiment. There's a reason scientists don't usually use ants as a model system for evolutionary experiments :)

 

2)Mutagens are dangerous substances. They will give you cancer, sterilize you, cause your children to have birth defects, etc and so on. A few are used in molecular labs and require dedicated equipment, nitrile gloves, face shields, lab smocks, fume hoods and special detergents to clean up afterwards. You can't really use them safely at home nor would anyone in their right mind want to.

 

There's a lot of other experiments one can do with an ant colony, but exposing them to a mutagen in the hope you'll observe "adaptation" is not a realistic idea.

 

You could look different substrate preferences, dietary experiments, set up a temperature/salinity/moisture gradient in the farm and observe, alter the circadian rhythm (lighting), etc.

Edited by Arete
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Its not school project.I can also use laboratory but it hasn't all requirements that you mentioned.Also I didn't want to use mutagens as liquids or something,I am concentrating on wave types example x-rays. And I choose ants because they work synchronized and you can see changes in their behavior to work as group

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Ok, then I'm not sure what you're asking for.

 

Yes you can induce genetic mutations by exposing an organism to a mutagen. High energy forms of radiation such as X-rays are capable of doing this, but are generally unsafe to use in a home laboratory setup.

 

When exposing an organism to a mutagen, you are essentially "damaging" its DNA. This is why mutagens tend to cause cancer in organisms that are exposed to them and are by definition hazardous materials. X-rays are used to create mutations for evolutionary experiments in Drosophila, however because the most likely thing that happens when you damage an organism's DNA is it dies, many many flies need to be exposed before a non-lethal, phenotypically manifesting mutation is produced.

 

By using an ant colony, you're restricting yourself to a single reproducing individual. You might need to irradiate thousands of colonies before you manage to mutate a queen in such a way that an observable mutation is caused. It might need to be millions before a behavioral mutation occurs. If you irradiate the entire colony, it will be impossible to rule out the fact you've just damaged the DNA of all the workers, giving them the equivalent of radiation sickness, creating a behavioral change completely irrelevant of adaptive evolution.

 

Your experimental design isn't going to work.

 

What's the motivation behind the experiment? We might be able to suggest more workable designs to answer the research question at hand.

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Im trying to change ants so they can live in other types of enviroment such as extreme temperatures etc.And by exposing queen to x-rays for short period of time im hoping to increase chances of mutations so that mutated ants can adapt faster/with more efficiency.

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Im trying to change ants so they can live in other types of enviroment such as extreme temperatures etc.And by exposing queen to x-rays for short period of time im hoping to increase chances of mutations so that mutated ants can adapt faster/with more efficiency.

 

Don't expose the queen to the mutagen, expose the eggs.

 

A strong mutagen will just end up killing all of your ants. You could expose them to UV light, which will increase the mutation rate by a smaller amount, but you will probably end up killing the ants as well to be honest.

 

As far as I am aware, evolutionary biologists who perform selection experiments on arthropods do not use mutagens. You really don't need them, you just need an organism which is easy to maintain in the lab and has a high reproduction rate, like Drosophila sp. and Gryllus sp. because variation and mutations are always naturally present. Ants are really bad candidates for selection experiments because of the reasons others have stated above.

 

As far as I understand, you want to expose an ant colony to a new environment and see how their social strategy changes to cope with this changes. You want to increase the mutation rate to increase the chances of obtaining ants capable of thriving in this new environment, thus forming a new colony of ants with a different way of working as a group. This way you can observe how group interactions change as the environment changes, which is why you want a social creature. If the group interactions are not your focus, then I highly recommend you to think about using other organisms.

 

Now, if the description I just gave describes your intentions accuarately, then I am afraid your methodology won't work. If you wanted to create a colony capable of thriving under different conditions then you would need to focus in the selection of colonies rather than individuals. A hypothetical experiment (not feasable) would be to have a large area with thousands or millions of ant colonies, and then gradualy change the environment. (Ex. increase the temperature by x amount after x generations)... Then, the colony as a whole is the superorganism which receives the selective pressure. This is because, if you have only one colony, and you manage to create an ant which has the set of rules necessary for thriving in the novel environment, this ant will be useless. It won't be able to work with the rest of the ants which still follow the old set of rules.

 

If you ask me, I don't really think it's feasable. But perhaps you come up with some different way and prove me wrong. Oh, and if I did not describe your intentions accuarately, maybe you could explain with more detail exactly what you want to achieve with this experiment, perhaps we can think about a more fit organism or methodology.

 

There is a great book called "Experimental Evolutions" by several authors which talks about selection experiments in great detail, I highly recommend it to you. Good luck!

Edited by Bolitoglossinae
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Thanks for interesting post.As you mentioned I'm interest in group interactions.I want to see how the whole colony will react to enviromental changes and how will they adapt and will they maintain to work ass group.That was my first idea,and then another came to my mind. It was to expose queen and/or eggs to mutagens to see if mutations gonna occur and how will the whole group react to changed ants/will ants even change,and will they maintain group capabilities. So I combined 2 of those ideas and came up with what I wrote.

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