- 2007. Rutgers University. B.S.
- The complexity of social organization in ants is in stark contrast with their relatively simple nervous system. How can a small brain drive distinct caste behaviors, identify complex chemical cues that encode colony identity, and social status of each individual? One feature that makes the ant Harpegnathos saltator amenable to a model organism is the presence of gamergates, or pseudoqueens. Once a queen is removed from the colony, workers transform into gamergates whose sole purpose is to lay eggs. Gamergates also undergo a drastic reduction in brain size that is especially marked for the optic lobes. We are investigating the neurodegenerative process observed in the optic lobes of H. saltator gamergates and testing whether it is due to a primary effect on the retina.
Harpegnathos saltator uses large eyes to hunt and capture prey.
A decrease in optic lobe size is observed when H. saltator
undergoes a transition from a worker to a gamergate.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Wild.