Could Carpenter Ants one day work for us?

An interesting new study finds that carpenter ants might be programmed to do our bidding.

Ian Marsh | Jan 25, 2016

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have just come to an interesting conclusion: by using epigenetics, we could perhaps control the behavior of carpenter ants.

Epigenetics refers to the science of how a gene is turned into a character trait or body part, and the researchers used the information they gathered and determined how it might be used on the Camponotus floridanus, or Florida carpenter ant, according to a Gizmodo report.

By looking at the solider ant and worker ant, they found that the DNA sequence were very similar in the two types of ants, but epigenetics made their cells different. Apparently, although they have the same DNA sequence, they get expressed differently and therefore the two types of ants behave and look differently.

The researchers examined acetyl groups, which are an oxygen atomm connected to a carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms, and then attached the proteins in the cell that forms the foundation of DNA coils. By doing this, they were able to control how genes were expressed, and unlock certain genes in the process.

By adjusting the chemical that inhibits or allows adding of acetyl groups, scientists could control how much time the worker ants spent foraging. It was like having a dimmer switch on the ants themselves, dialing up or dialing down certain behaviors.

It's promising research into how DNA and genes work, and it could result in breakthroughs in epigenetics that could lead to controlling certain behaviors in more complex creatures.

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