Asexual ants discovered
Friday, April 17, 2009
According to research undertaken at the University of Texas at Austin (and recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Journal), a species of ant (Mycocepurus smithii) found in the Amazon reproduces asexually. The species is thought to be the first such species discovered.
The possibility that Mycocepurus smithii reproduces asexually had previously been suggested by Hermógenes Fernandez-Marin, "The possibility that females reproduce parthenogenetically is suggested by the conspicuous lack of males in reproductive colonies."
Molecular genetic results reported in the Royal Society Proceedings indicate that members of Mycocepurus smithii colonies are genetically identical, consistent with asexual reproduction. Anna Himler, the biologist leading the research commented that "In social insects there are a number of different types of reproduction," but continued that "... this species has evolved its own unusual mode."
Further research into when the species became asexual and why this change occurred is being undertaken.
- "Ants inhabit 'world without sex'" — BBC News Online, April 15, 2009
- Fernandez-Marin, H., J. K. Zimmerman, W. T. Wcislo, and S. A. Rehner. Colony foundation, nest architecture and demography of a basal fungus-growing ant, Mycocepurus smithii (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Journal of Natural History 39:1735-1743, 2005. PDF (172KB)
- Anna Grace Himler, Ph.D. Dissertation: Evolutionary Ecology and Natural History of Fungus-Growing Ants: Host-Switching, Divergence, and Asexuality. Chapter 3. No sex in fungus-farming ants or their crops, 2007. PDF (931KB)