Ants Give Up On Males, Become All-Female Species

A few weeks ago, an old friend of mine was bemoaning her inability to understand men. I told her to take a close look at insects and everything will begin to seem a lot more cut-and-dried. Not to say you can solve all gender-related issues by looking at a beehive, but the more I look at insects, the more it becomes clear that the females are the real members of any given species and the men are essentially an adaptation necessary to breeding.

A little while ago, I posted about termite queens that produce asexually to make a clone of themselves, who carry on mating with the termite king after they've reached the end of their shorter life span. Well, the same publication, the UK's Royal Society B, has hit us with another whopper: Amazonian ants that have given up on sexual reproduction altogether. Yes, they're an all-female species.

According to BBC News, this sexless world comes with a slew of benefits. First, the ants don't waste any energy producing males (which, for many insects, don't do much apart from breeding). Think about it, you've combined two positions -- how's that for streamlining the business? Plus, this doubles the number of reproductive females produced each generation. Yep, you've come a long way, baby.

The downside? There's less diversity, which means one new parasite or disease can essentially wipe out the entire species.

So what might a sexless world mean for humanity? Less resistance to disease, sure, but we might be heading that way anyway with designer babies and human cloning. Might it also mean fewer wars and murders without all those masculine hormones and breeding instincts? Think about it...

Learn more at How Evolution Works How Human Cloning Will Work How Men Work How Sex Works How Women Work

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.