Ants and Evolution ~ A Perfect Match?
I was thinking about evolution. You know, like you do. Anyways, I started thinking about Ants and how it would impact them. Generally in the animal kingdom when a mutation happens it needs to be beneficial enough to outperform all other competitors in that species. Even if that improvement is only 20% more children on average (or less), over millions of years this adds up and eventually the new mutations (if they had a positive impact) will become the norm.
But with ants all you need to generate countless workers is a single queen. Each queen is her own evolutionary tree. If she has a mutation it will effect all of her offspring. These are reproductive numbers that are not common in any other animal kingdom.
I suppose you might get the same results from bees. A queen bee with a mutation would give it (or the DNA responsible for it) to all her workers. Equally though, as I write this, I think to myself what about the Achilles heel of the community insect. The queens are only producing females, they still need a male to come along. If their mutation does not attract the male they might never produce more queens. Then again we are getting into dangerous territory because my knowledge of ant reproduction is incredibly limited.
For fun now that I’ve written this I’m going to take a gander at some articles. I didn’t find much but I did come across an interesting excerpt which might support my random mad ramblings.
Mutants can spell the end for supercolonies
Jes Søe Pedersen is part of a research group at the Center for Social Evolution. The group is trying to figure out how these supercolonies can persist, even though their existence defies evolution.
Lots of things could put a supercolony down. For example, a queen who is a mutant and only lays queen eggs would be able to spread her offspring quickly around in the colony. Since only queens lay eggs, one queen could become several thousand queens in a short period of time.
If this offspring also gives birth to queens only, it would be optimal for ants with this particular gene, which would soon become dominant in the colony. Eventually there would be no workers left to keep the colony going. – sciencenordiic.com
Fascinating stuff. A single mutation has a dramatic impact because the nature of the network. Makes me want to get some books on ant biology.