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Little fire ant males are clones

Researchers identify first ant species in which both males and females have reverted to asexuality

Nick Atkinson(nwa@entangled.org)

Detailed genetic analyses of little fire antWasmannia auropunctata colonies have revealed an unexpected mode of reproduction by males. The findings, published this week in Nature, show that males within a colony are genetically identical, implying that they are produced clonally. Effectively, male and female fire ants are two separate genetic lineages whose only sexually produced diploid progeny are sterile workers, the study authors suggest.

Denis Fournier, from Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, and colleagues studied the DNA of queens, workers, males, and their sperm from 34 little ant nests in French Guiana. They expected to find a typical haplodiploidy genetic system, but instead discovered that queens possessed only maternally derived DNA, and males possessed only paternally derived DNA.

"If males are potentially in an evolutionary dead end, as is true in the little fire ant where workers are sterile and all queens are clonally produced, they do...

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