Ants, Genomes & Evolution

@ Queen Mary University London

We are interested in themes including the genetics of behavior, the interplay between social evolution and genome evolution, and the molecular mechanisms responsible for differences between castes.

For example we:

  • BLAST is the most commonly used bioinformatics tool. But setting it up for private data and using it is counter-intuitive. Furthermore the standard graphical user interfaces for BLAST are clunky. We developed SequenceServer to overcome these hurdles.
  • Sequencing genomes has become straightforward. But correctly identifying genes in a genome sequence remains challenging. This is a huge problem for multi-species multi-gene analyses on emerging model organisms (trash in trash out).
  • Because genomics data types and analysis algorithms remain young, many analyses require jumping back and forth between multiple tools. The tools themselves are young, can be challenging to install and can require frequent updates. But for reproducibility a given project may want to stick to specific versions of specific tools. Based on the docker container architecture, oSwitch enables lightweight switching from one virtual operating system to another. It is a powerful tool for pipelines and for hacking.


  • y.wurm [at]
  • @yannick__
  • yannickwurm
  • 5.17, Fogg Building, Organismal Biology Department, School of Biological & Chemical Sciences, Mile End Road, E1 4NS London, UK.

[Larger Map & Local Directions]

  • Joining the lab. We welcome applications for Marie Skłodowska-Curie & other postdoctoral fellowships. PhD funding exists as part of multiple schemes (e.g., London NERC & BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnerships, Science without Borders). Internships available (min. 5 months). Please provide by email a CV, contact info of references and a short project proposal. Projects should adress major evolutionary or ecologically relevant questions, and/or major computational challenges. We use population genomics, comparative analyses, bioinformatics, molecular biology, software development, some hacking, and/or behavioral work.

We are grateful for support from our funders:

funding bodies

Publications See also [Google Scholar] & [Software Tools]

  1. Sequenceserver: BLAST searching made easy (in prep) A Priyam, BJ Woodcroft, V Rai, Y Wurm.
  2. GeneValidator: identify problems with protein-coding gene predictions (in review) MA Dragan, I Moghul, A Priyam, C Bustos, Y Wurm.
  3. Avoid having to retract your genomics analysis (2015) Y Wurm. The Winnower 2, e143696.68941 [PDF]
  4. Ant genomics (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): challenges to overcome and opportunities to seize (2015) Y Wurm, S Nygaard. Myrmecological News 21, 59-72 [PDF]
  5. Social chromosome variants differentially affect queen determination and the survival of workers in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (2014) SD Buechel, Y Wurm, L Keller. Molecular Ecology 23 (20), 5117-5127 [PDF]
  6. Transposable element islands facilitate adaptation to novel environments in an invasive species (2014) L Schrader et al. Nature communications 5 [DOI] [PDF] 7x
  7. Effects of ploidy and sex-locus genotype on gene expression patterns in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (2014) M Nipitwattanaphon, J Wang, KG Ross, O Riba-Grognuz, Y Wurm, C Khurewathanakul, L Keller Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 281 [DOI] [PDF]
  8. Convergent genetic architecture underlies social organization in ants () J Purcell, A Brelsford, Y Wurm, N Perrin, M Chapuisat. Current Biology 2014 [DOI] [PDF] 8x
  9. Discovery and molecular characterization of an ambisense densovirus from South American populations of Solenopsis invicta (2013) SM Valles, DW Shoemaker, Y Wurm, CA Strong, L Varone, JJ Becnel, et al. Biological Control 67, 431-39 [DOI] [PDF]
  10. Vitellogenin underwent subfunctionalization to acquire caste and behavioral specific expression in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus (2013) M Corona, R Libbrecht, Y Wurm, O Riba-Grognuz, RA Studer, L Keller. PLoS Genetics 9 (8), e1003730 [DOI] [PDF] 16x
  11. Sociogenomics of cooperation and conflict during colony founding in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (2013) F Manfredini, O Riba-Grognuz, Y Wurm, L Keller, DW Shoemaker, CM Grozinger PLoS Genetics 9 (8), e1003633 [DOI] [PDF] 10x
  12. Comparative genomics of chemosensory protein genes reveals rapid evolution and positive selection in ant-specific duplicates (2013) J Kulmuni, Y Wurm, P Pamilo. Heredity 110 (6), 538-547 [DOI] [PDF] 13x
  13. A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants (2013) J Wang*°, Y Wurm*°, M Nipitwattanaphon, O Riba-Grognuz, YC Huang, D Shoemaker, L Keller. Nature 493 (7434), 664-668 [DOI] [PDF] 52x
  14. Duplication and concerted evolution in a master sex determiner under balancing selection (2013) E Privman, Y Wurm°, L Keller°. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280, 1471-2954 [DOI] [PDF] 6x
  15. Social insect genomes exhibit dramatic evolution in gene composition and regulation while preserving regulatory features linked to sociality (2013) DF Simola, L Wissler, G Donahue, RM Waterhouse, M Helmkampf, et al. Genome Research gr.155408.113 [DOI] [PDF] 60x
  16. The molecular clockwork of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (2012) KK Ingram, A Kutowoi, Y Wurm, DW Shoemaker, R Meier, G Bloch. PloS One 7 (11), e45715 [DOI] 12x
  17. Epigenetics: the making of ant castes (2012) A Chittka, Y Wurm, L Chittka. Current Biology 22 (19), R835-R838 [DOI] 7x
  18. Visualization and quality assessment of de novo genome assemblies (2011) O Riba-Grognuz°, L Keller, L Falquet, I Xenarios, Y Wurm°. Bioinformatics 27 (24), 3425-3426 [DOI] [PDF]
  19. Relaxed selection is a precursor to the evolution of phenotypic plasticity (2011) BG Hunt, L Ometto, Y Wurm, DW Shoemaker, VY Soojin, L Keller, et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108 (38), 15936-15941 [DOI] [PDF] 50x
  20. The genome of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior suggests key adaptations to advanced social life and fungus farming (2011) S Nygaard, G Zhang, M Schiott, C Li, Y Wurm, H Hu, J Zhou, L Ji, F Qiu, et al. Genome Research 21 (8), 1339-1348 [PDF] 106x
  21. The genome of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (2011) Y Wurm°, et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108 (14), 5679 [DOI] [PDF] 158x
  22. Odorant binding proteins of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta: an example of the problems facing the analysis of widely divergent proteins (2011) D Gotzek°, HM Robertson, Y Wurm, DW Shoemaker. PloS One 6 (1), e16289 [DOI] 17x
  23. The genomic impact of 100 million years of social evolution in seven ant species (2011) J Gadau, M Helmkampf, S Nygaard, J Roux, DF Simola, CR Smith, et al. Trends in Genetics 28 (1), 14-21 [DOI] [PDF] 50x
  24. Behind the scenes of an ant genome project (2011) Y Wurm. Formosan Entomologist 31 (2), 149-56
  25. Parasitoid wasps: from natural history to genomic studies (2010) Y Wurm, L Keller. Current Biology 20 (5), R242-R244 [DOI]
  26. Changes in reproductive roles are associated with changes in gene expression in fire ant queens (2010) Y Wurm°, J Wang, L Keller. Molecular Ecology 19 (6), 1200-1211 [DOI] [PDF] 24x
  27. Fourmidable: a database for ant genomics (2009) Y Wurm°, P Uva, F Ricci, J Wang, S Jemielity, C Iseli, L Falquet, L Keller. BMC Genomics 10 (1), 5 [DOI] [PDF] 26x
  28. Sociogenetics of fire ants (2009) Y Wurm. PhD Thesis; University of Lausanne Switzerland
  29. Behavioral Genomics: A, Bee, C, G, T (2007) Y Wurm, J Wang, L Keller. Current Biology 17 (2), R51-R53 [DOI] [PDF]
  30. An annotated cDNA library and microarray for large-scale gene-expression studies in the ant Solenopsis invicta (2007) J Wang, S Jemielity, P Uva, Y Wurm, J Graeff, L Keller. Genome Biology 8 (1), R9 [PDF] 54x
  31. Cryostock a software for cell culture management (2005) M Zerlin, L Greiffenberg, Y Wurm, I Winkler, D Kreusel, S Toemoe, et al. Animal Cell Technology Meets Genomics 397-400 [DOI]

Solenopsis invicta workers defend the fire ant genome against a Pogonomyrmex rugosus harvester ant worker.
© Romain Libbrecht & Yannick Wurm.

Fire ant genome