What Can Ants, Bees, and Other Social Insects Teach Us About Aging?

It’s a developing field that rarely features in conferences on aging biology, where the spotlight is on mice, Drosophila fruit flies, and the minuscule nematode Caenorhabditis elegans — three species researchers have probed and tweaked for well over half a century to learn what controls their life spans. Many who study those species have yet to be convinced that social insects have something important to contribute. “They think it’s fun and worthwhile to know the diversity of aging,” says biologist Gro Amdam, who studies aging in bees at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Arizona State University, Tempe. “But they don’t think we will make major discoveries in social insects that are relevant to their work.” But Amdam and other social insect researchers — who this month published a big batch of findings in a thematic issue on aging and sociality in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B — say they promise new ways to understand aging.


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