Supergenes as drivers of ant evolution
Supergenes – large non-recombining genomic regions – control compound adaptive phenotypes, such as alternative colony social organization in ants. Supergenes typically link co-adapted loci but are also prone to accumulate recessive deleterious mutations and selfish genetic elements that distort Mendelian segregation, so that understanding their long-term evolutionary maintenance is challenging. I will present recent advances on the genomic structure, phenotypic effects and evolutionary dynamics of a supergene determining colony queen number in the Alpine silver ant, Formica selysi. I will argue that supergenes can be drivers of ant evolution, because the underlying genetic system plays a direct role in the evolutionary dynamics of alternative forms of social organization.