I am a biologist interested in the chemical communication systems of social insects. My research focuses on colony identity, recognition behavior, and pheromone function in ants. I use a variety of tools to investigate these mechanisms including comparative genomics, experimental genetics, and behavioral and chemical ecology. These techniques allow me to identify both proximate and ultimate factors that contribute to the evolution, development, and maintenance of social insect communication and recognition systems.
I discovered if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath.
To reduce the costs of territoriality, organisms may restrict aggression to those who pose the greatest threat. A growing body of evidence shows that some group-living animals exhibit the "nasty neighbor" phenomenon, i.e., groups behave more aggressively towards individuals from neighboring groups than towards individuals from more distant groups. In this line of research, I investigate how prior experience effects territoriality behavior.
With the exception of unicolonial species, all social insects have some form of nestmate recognition that deters members of nearby colonies from entering a foreign colony. In ants, nestmate recognition is widely though to occur through chemical cues found on the bodies of individuals, called cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs). As part of my work on nestmate recognition, I study how genetics and social environment effect CHC ontogeny and variation.
Desaturase Evolution & Function
Desaturase genes are essential for biological processes, including lipid metabolism, cell signaling, and membrane fluidity regulation. Insect desaturases are particularly interesting for their role in chemical communication, and potential contribution to speciation, symbioses, and sociality. To understand more about their evolution and function, I study the acyl-CoA desaturase gene families of insects, with a special focus on social Hymenoptera.
Uncovering the genetic basis of social insect nestmate recognition: Desaturase gene diversity among seven newly sequenced ant species
Nasty Neighbors? Territoriality behavior in Pogonomyrmex barbatus
Developing the Gestalt: Nestmate recognition cues in the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus
Arizona State University
School of Life Sciences
California Academy of Sciences
Southwestern Research Station
Tropical Field Biology
Arizona State University
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
The Ohio State University
College of Life Sciences Education
University of Cincinnati
Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP)
— DAVID LYNCH
Helmkampf M†, Cash E†, Gadau J (2014) Evolution of the insect desaturase gene family with an emphasis on social Hymenoptera. Molecular Biology and Evolution 32: 456-471. †These authors contributed equally to this work.
Simola DF, …Cash E (18/38 authors), …Gadau J (2013) Social insect genomes exhibit dramatic evolution in gene composition and regulation while preserving regulatory features linked to sociality. Genome Research 23: 1235–1247.
Gibson JD, Niehuis O, Peirson BRE, Cash EI, Gadau J (2013) Genetic and developmental basis of F2 hybrid breakdown in Nasonia. Evolution 67: 2124-2132.
Smith CR, …Cash E (11/45 authors), …Gadau J (2011) A draft genome of the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus: a model for reproductive division of labor and social complexity. PNAS 108: 5667-5672.
Smith CD, …Cash E (6/50 authors), …Tsutsui ND (2011) The draft genome of the globally widespread and invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). PNAS 108: 5673-5678.
Suen G, …Cash E (9/49 authors), …Currie CR (2011) The genome sequence of the leaf-cutter ant Atta cephalotes reveals insights into its obligate symbiotic lifestyle. PLoS Genetics 7, e1002007.
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