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All-Female Ant Species Found
April 17, 2009—Save the males? Too late for Mycocepurus smithii.
This leaf-cutter ant species is all female and thrives without sex of any kind—ever—according to a new study. The ants have evolved to reproduce only when queens clone themselves.
"They appear to have evolved a new mode of reproduction, and the genetic mechanisms have yet to be worked out," said lead study author Anna Himler, a research associate at the University of Arizona.
…No male of the species has ever been found, and "even if a male were theoretically to appear somewhere, we're not sure they could mate any more," she said.
Other ants, such as fire ants, that can reproduce asexually have working sexual organs, just in case.
Ants inhabit 'world without sex'
These ants do not need males
An Amazonian ant has dispensed with sex and developed into an all-female species, researchers have found.
The ants reproduce via cloning - the queen ants copy themselves to produce genetically identical daughters.
This species - the first ever to be shown to reproduce entirely without sex - cultivates a garden of fungus, which also reproduces asexually.
The finding of the ants' "world without sex" is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE BOYS GONE?
Scientists have recently discovered that a species of fungus-gardening ant is the only ant species in the world known to have dispensed with males entirely.
…scientists have recently discovered that queens of the ant species Mycocepurus smithii reproduce without fertilization and males appear to be totally absent.
Animals that are completely asexual are relatively rare, which makes this is a very interesting ant. Asexual species don’t mix their genes through recombination, so you’d expect harmful mutations to accumulate over time and for the species to go extinct more quickly than others. They don’t generally persist for very long over evolutionary time.
Asexual Ants Have Sex
Birds do it. Bees do it. But until now, no one thought the fungus farming ant did it. …however, researchers have found evidence that some populations of Mycocepurus smithii actually do have sex…
…the fungus-farming ant is one of the few species that appeared to adopt a purely asexual lifestyle: researchers had never seen a male in the wild, and ants in the lab produced clonal offspring.
But …they found four Amazonian populations in which queens had a different genetic makeup than their offspring, indicating that those offspring were not simply the result of asexual cloning. …
When the researchers dissected the seemingly sexual queens, they found storage organs filled with sperm, a sign that the ants mated at least once.
On paper, asexuality seems like a winning strategy. Sexless creatures pass on all their genes—as opposed to just half—and “you don’t have to spend huge amounts of energy going around and finding a mate and going through courtship and exposing yourself to disease,”…
One advantage of asexuality for colonizing ants is that just one individual, rather than two, can clone itself and establish a new population…
Yet species overwhelmingly engage in the messy, costly business of sex because it provides the genetic variation species need to react quickly to environment and ecosystem changes, ...
I read somewhere that there is good evidence that protection against diseases and parasites passed on from parent to child is one of the incentives to develop sexual reproduction.
When their genetics differ, it is harder for mothers germs to infect the child.