Student Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

RU Laboratory

Kronauer Laboratory


For decades, ants have served as major study species for ethologists, theorists, geneticists, and chemical ecologists, who have been drawn to understand how their unique features contribute to the evolution and maintenance of insect societies. These features, especially their extreme morphological plasticity, collective behavior, and complex chemical communication, together with their small sizes and relatively simple brains, make ants intriguing model systems for many topics in neurobiology. While many ant species possess brains no larger than the wellcharacterized vinegar fly, the primary olfactory processing centers (antennal lobes) contain an order of magnitude more functional units compared to the vinegar fly, presumably to facilitate detecting and discriminating between vast numbers of pheromones. The discovery of additional developmental differences between ants and flies led to a proposed but untested model where ant olfactory sensory neurons target the appropriate antennal lobe compartment via receptor dependent activity, as occurs in mammals. However, while transgenic tools have allowed dissection of the olfactory system's development and functional organization in some solitary insect species, these tools have so far been impossible to implement in ants. Taking advantage of the unusual experimental tractability of the clonal raider ant Ooceraea biroi, we implemented piggyBac transgenesis for the first time in ants, and generated a toolkit of transgenic lines. These protocols and transgenic tools greatly expand the space of feasible experiments in ants, and make clonal raider ants the most experimentally tractable model system among eusocial insects. We then used these transgenic lines to study outstanding questions in social insect olfaction.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Rockefeller University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

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