Who Needs Males? Not Self-Cloning Tropical Ants

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2009 10:49 AM CDT
A worker ant encountering an ant from another nest which he recognises by its slightly different smell, as each nest has a particular scent.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Are men really necessary? Not if you’re a Mycoceperus smithii ant. Researchers have discovered that the tropical ant species is comprised entirely of females, the BBC reports. A colony’s queen will clone itself, producing only daughters. Though such sex-free reproduction is common in the ant world, this is the first all-female species ever discovered.

Traditionally, asexual reproduction has been considered an evolutionary disadvantage because it cuts down on mutations and genetic diversity. But researchers say there are some advantages to the Mycoceperus smithii’s non-love life. “It avoids the energetic cost of producing males,” said one researcher, “and doubles the number of reproductive females produced each generation from 50% to 100% of the offspring.”