Get this: a specis of Amazonian ants is saying 'no thanks' to men and sex for life. That's right, the rare species, known as Mycocepurus smithii, have actually evolved beyond the need for males in their population! The ants reproduce asexually by cloning themselves, and each ant population is an exact replica of the queen. Anna Himler , the biologist from the University of Arizona who led the research on the ants, explained that there are advantages to the critters' sexless life. 'It avoids the energetic cost of producing males, and doubles the number of reproductive females produced each generation from 50% to 100% of the offspring.'
Frankly, I can't help but think that what these lady bugs have created is pretty spectacular in a futuristic/SciFi way. The most impressive finding from the study is that the lack of males has given the females more time and energy to create some of the most elaborate forms of ant agriculture ever studied. I can't help but think there might be a grain of genius here. On the other hand, since the ants all have the same immune system as the queen, a single parasite could wipe out the entire population. Not the best laid genetic plan.
This research leaves me with a lot of questions. Sure, the busy bugs are productive, but I wonder what Himler would find if she could quantify the happiness of a population without male ants or sex and their lifespan. My guess is that sexual harassment is on the decline, but that they could use a little lovin'. Adopt an ant farm today! ~Hannah
Photo courtesy of impactlab.com
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