Pogonomyrmex barbatus ©Alex Wild Photography
The genus Pogonomyrmex contains species that vary greatly in social organization, is among the best studied of ant genera, is sister to almost all other genera in the diverse subfamily Myrmicinae, and contains species of major ecological importance as granivores in both North and South America. P. barbatus is also a model for investigating reproductive division of labor due to a unique genetic caste determination system where individuals are fated by their genotype to develop as either workers or queens in some populations.
The P. barbatus genome sequencing consortium published a high-quality draft in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They highlighted aspects of the red harvester ant genome such as a predicted genomic CpG content markedly different from that of other hymenopteran genomes sequenced to date, and signatures of increased methylation in gene networks involved in generating key differences between the queen and worker castes, with implications on our understanding of gene regulatory mechanisms for the reproductive division of labor. Their findings also demonstrate the quality of one of the first de novo genome assemblies of an eukaryotic species solely using pyrosequencing.