Dr. Eric Lucas

Social insects provide a unique model for the study of aging and senescence due to the great disparity in lifespan between queens and workers, which do not differ genetically. Workers are, in many species, further divided into castes that are exposed to a variety of environmental factors, which models predict should lead to varying patterns of senescence. My work focuses on examining the lifespan differences that exist between castes in ants. In particular, I am interested in how evolutionary models of senescence can explain differences in gene expression, physiology and lifespan among castes. I address these questions using manipulations to obtain age-controlled individuals of different castes, followed by RNA sequencing. I am also interested in whether the extent of oxidative damage to DNA and proteins differs between castes

My general interests extend to understanding how evolution shapes behaviour in a range of contexts, in particular the evolution of sociality and of behaviours that emerge in species with cooperative brood care and reproductive division of labour. My previous work has focused on studying social and genetic structure in the apoid wasp Microstigmus nigrophthalmus, whose lineage represents an origin of sociality independent from other Hymenoptera.

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