Advances in imaging, quantifying, and understanding the evolution of ant phenotypes

In the past several decades, recent advances in sequencing, computation, and informatics have opened huge new possibilities for analyzing and understanding evolution. However, to understand the evolution of life we have to illuminate how natural selection shapes functional phenotypes. The study of organismal shape and form has been slow to take advantage of the informatics revolution, but recent technological advances in imaging and comparative analysis are poised to change that rapidly. Here, we focus on the latest advances in imaging, analyzing, and understanding the evolution of organism shape and functional morphology, using ants as a model system.

Approaches integrating genomics, phenomics, and other data provide a strong foundation for unraveling how ant morphology has evolved through time, and investigating both the drivers and consequences of that evolutionary change. This effort will be driven by new imaging and analysis techniques, such as micro x-ray computed tomography (micro-CT) and computer-based 3D reconstruction, working in tandem with phylogenetic comparative methods and geometric morphometrics. Such integrative approaches provide necessary basis for the reconstruction of adaptive trait evolution on a phenotypical level and the development of complex evolutionary scenarios.

However, such technologies present both opportunities and new challenges for the field. On the technical side, generating, processing, and analyzing such large and complex data present a number of issues. More generally, we need solid conceptual frameworks to understand the evolution of very high-dimensional phenotypes. In this mini-symposium, we aim to gather a small group of leading researchers interested in the evolution of ant phenotypes and how to integrate different types of input into large, comprehensive datasets. We will present ongoing research, discuss both technical and conceptual issues, and brainstorm future directions for the field.

March 26-28, 2018

OIST Main Campus, Center Building, room C210  

Invited speakers: 

  • Phil Barden (New Jersey Institute of Technology)
  • Johan Billen (KU Leuven)
  • Benjamin Blanchard (U. Chicago and Field Museum)
  • Ayako Gotoh (Konan U.) 
  • Yoshiaki Hashimoto (U. Hyogo, Museum of Nature and Human Activities, Hyogo)
  • Fuminori Ito (Kagawa U.)
  • Roberto Keller (Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência)
  • Andrea Lucky (U. Florida)
  • Christian Peeters (U. Pierre et Marie Curie)
  • Shauna Price (Field Museum)
  • Andrew Suarez (U. Illinois)

Internal speakers: 

  • Evan P. Economo
  • Georg Fischer
  • Nick Friedman
  • Francisco Hita Garcia
  • Adam Khalife (U. Pierre et Marie Curie and OIST)


  • Evan P. Economo
  • Francisco Hita Garcia