Harpegnathos saltator ©Alex Wild Photography
The distribution of the jumping ant Harpegnathos saltator (Jerdon, 1851) is confined to India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. The social system and division of labor of H. saltator are more basal than those of other ant species. Contrasting the larger, more organized colonies of other species of ants, H. saltator lives in small colonies with individuals that display low territoriality and basic task specialization. Dimorphism between queens and workers is limited, and when the queen dies she is replaced by workers that become functional queens, called gamergates.
Bonasio and collaborators sequenced and compared the genomes of two socially divergent ant species, the Indian jumping ant and the Florida carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus. Comparison of gene expression in different castes identified up-regulation of aging-related genes in longer-lived H. saltator reproductives, caste-specific expression of microRNAs and SMYD histone methyltransferases, and differential regulation of genes implicated in neuronal function and chemical communication. The results of their studies were published in the journal Science in 2010 and provided clues on the molecular differences between castes in these two ants and established a new experimental model to study epigenetics in aging and behavior.