Re: ants again

Date: Tue Oct 23 2001 - 03:48:49 MDT

In a message dated 23/10/01 07:48:34 GMT Daylight Time, writes:

> 2 - How do hive insects evolve??? The genes involved in reproduction seem to
> come from the queen & drones, who are far removed from the survival of the
> hive.
> I would guess that drones must evolve to be better at mating with the queen,
> but the rest of it is a bit trickier. Are whole colonies analogous to a
> single organism in terms of reproductive fitness? If so, then we have the
> case that colonies are actually asexual reproducers, in that they split to
> reproduce; two colonies do not combine their DNA to form an offspring.
> So, if the colony's reproduction is actually the splitting of the colony,
> then the production of individual insects is more akin to the creation of
> new cells in a human body, and plays the same role in terms of reproduction
> of the colony; that is, not much of a role at all.

        I was under the impression that the queen only mates when she leaves
the hive where she was hatched, while seaking out a new place for a hive. I
vaguely remember half hearing something along these lines on a National
geographic yawnfest. I thought it odd at the time and wondered how it worked.
I know that other Animals/Insects can store sperm or the male germ cells
internally for fairly long periods. They then use these reserves to fertilise
eggs when nessesary.
       I have seen mating Ants on hot summer days. Where the large queens are
coupled with smaller also winged ants. Im not sure whether a queens can mate
mutiple times and therefor store a broader gene pool of male germ cells ready
for when she has established her new hive. This would make reproductive sense.

       If my understanding that the queen comes from one hive and the smaller
ants (call them kings for want of a better word, im not sure if they are just
winged drones)
come from another hive. Then the reproductive process isn't Asexual and two
colonies do combine their DNA. Therefor evolution would be fairly normal.
       I think that ant colonies do sometimes split for reasons such as
overpopulation or climate change. This would also make reproductive sense as
it increases the chance of a successfull gene survival by reducing the impact
of major catastrophic events like the dreaded "Hungry Ant Eater attack" or a
kettle full of boiling water.

       Thinking about this has brought a few questions to mind:

1. If the queen does store male germ cells for the duration of her reign (not
sure how long that is, but I believe it can be years). How does she keep said
germ cells alive ?

       obviously she doesn't have a tank of liquid nitrogen and a couple of
plastic straws to hand. So there must be some nifty biologicall process at
work on either the part of the queen or the cells themselves. I think
research into this could yield some interesting technologies or processes for
increasing the longevity of cells.

2. If the queen stores cells from multiple males. Do the rival cells fight,
as in the case of human and other sperm ?.

       If not, no problem. But it would make reproductive sense for the male
cells to try to destroy any rivals. If this is the case How does the queen
stop this process, or does she use the remaining live cells after they have
fought. Which would probably be the fittest ?.

       I cant believe my mind has wondered this far from the original "where
are the ants going and why?" question.
       Thanks Spike :o)



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