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Cloning In The Animal Kingdom 123

Posted by Zonk
from the beware-the-swarm dept.
tanveer1979 writes "The New Scientist is carrying an interesting article on cloning in nature." From the article: "The ant Wasmannia Auropunctata, which is native to Central and South America but has spread into the US and beyond, has opted for a unique stand-off in the battle of the sexes. Both queens and males reproduce by making genetically identical copies of themselves - so males and females seem to have entirely separate gene pools. Conventional reproduction happens only to produce workers. This is the first instance in the animal kingdom where males reproduce exclusively by cloning, though male honeybees do it occasionally." National Geographic is also carrying the story.
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Cloning In The Animal Kingdom

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I for one welcome our new ant-cloning Wasmannia Auropunctata overlords!
  • Well then (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Mad Merlin (837387)
    Does this mean that Bush will have to declare war on this "Wasmannia Auropunctata" too? Or is that just for oil?
  • cloning uncommon? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evenprime (324363) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:26PM (#12974730) Homepage Journal
    Conventional reproduction happens only to produce workers.

    But aren't most of the ants in a colony workers?

    • Re:cloning uncommon? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mad Merlin (837387)
      But aren't most of the ants in a colony workers?

      One would think so, perhaps these ants aren't like the other ants in this respect too?

    • Re:cloning uncommon? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@@@gmail...com> on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:34PM (#12974758) Homepage
      That is correct. They are also sterile too AFAIK. I believe that the workers are by definition female, but incapable of reproducing. The male ants really only exist to mate with the queen to create more female workers. I'm sure they have some other small functions, but not much else. In the event of a queen dying in a bee's nest, I believe that the male bees have a way of producing another female queen, but I forget how it works. (Its been years since I read about bees)

      Bees and ants are some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet in a lot of ways. They almost seem to posess a collective conscious and part of that is the ability for them to communicate with each other in a rapid efficient manner.

      Basically the queen in a nest of either species exists mostly to reproduce. Everything else exists to support that. The workers take care of and feed their larvae young. Ever see ants carrying little white things that look like rice? That is them moving their larvae about. The nests they build are amazingly well developed. Ditto for bees.

      If you ever get a chance you should search google for bits of info on the supercolony of ants that has pretty much migrated across huge swaths of europe. It seems that the colony is completely interconnected as the ants all cooperate. In a lot of ways, it is the Borg of ant colonies.

      Bugs are weird. Lets hope they never start hating humans. We'd lose really quick.
      • Bugs are weird. Lets hope they never start hating humans. We'd lose really quick.


        I've got some napalm here that would suggest otherwise.
      • Re:cloning uncommon? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Troed (102527)
        I think you'd be interested in Coalescent: Homo Superior [amazon.co.uk] if you haven't already read it of course.

        Human hives possible?
        • by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@@@gmail...com> on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:50PM (#12974839) Homepage
          In a lot of ways I think that the above is true. However, I don't really know if the hive mentality would ever really truly fit for humans though as they tend to show many more tendancies towards the herd or the pack mentality. Once you start thinking of most humans as sheep, the world starts making more sense and starts becoming a lot more depressing. Face it. People just don't want to think about the world and what is going on in it. I know that there are exceptions, but most people do not want the responsibility that comes with knowledge of their world and are much more content sitting in the comfort of their low crime cookie-cutter suburb watching network television than worrying about all hte really terrible things that are happening to people all over the globe.

          Hell, if people would just start thinking of how much freaking garbage they produce on a weekly basis and the big fucking hole in the woods that someone dug and lined with plastic to dump it all...oh hell, what's the fucking use?

          No wonder people get depressed.
      • Re:cloning uncommon? (Score:5, Informative)

        by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:45PM (#12974807) Journal

        I googled for it as you suggested. And now I'm going to have nightmares for a month.

        The link is here. [bbc.co.uk] It also contains a link to an article on the Fire Ants that attacked Australia.

        • Great. So you're going to have nightmares, and then you share the link? At least you warned us, I'll give you that much.
        • It's not just Europe. Those "Argentinian ants" (Linepithema humile) are taking over the planet! Or so it seems. Have a look at the Global Invasive Species database: http://www.issg.org/database/species/distribution. asp?si=127&fr=1&sts= [issg.org]


          Around where I live (coastal California) I don't think there are any other kinds of ants anymore.

          --Seen

        • Good heavens, fire ants are terrible! I'm from Texas, and there is no greater pestilence than fire ants there.

          Incidentally, you remember the Super Conducting Super Collider project that congress cut funding from in the 90s? Well, it was to be in Texas, and they had already built a lot of the tunnels for the collider. Then, when congress pulled funding, one of the reasons listed in their official report (or so I've heard) was that fire ants are attracted to electricity (which they are, I have an anecdot
          • fire ants are attracted to electricity (which they are, I have an anecdote about that if you like)

            Spill it. :)
            • Ok, you got it.

              When I was four, we moved to house just North of Dalls. On the other side of the alley behind our house was a big green box. It could be opened, if you had a key. We (me and my neighboorhood friends) used to use it as a stage, a castle, a mountain, a thing-to-be-defended-from-everyone-else-in-today' s -game, etc. Our parents always told us not to play around it, but we ignored them, as the only reason we could see for this was the continual prescence of a small fire-ant nest at one corn
      • Rice (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ever see ants carrying little white things that look like rice? That is them moving their larvae about.

        Oh shit! I thought they were stealing rice from my kitchen, so I stole it back and later used it to make stir fry. *gag*

      • "Basically the queen in a nest of either species exists mostly to reproduce. Everything else exists to support that."

        That's the same for all species. vis a vis Dave Chappelle's comments re: hot cars and tittyflashes.

        Everything exists to propagate the message in DNA.
    • The queen also can produce both males and potentially other queens. In bees, when another queen is hatched and matured it will likely challenge the existing queen and the winner will continue the hive. Survival of the fittest indeed. I'd imagine it works similarily with ants. The queen is usually the key because she makes all the other ants. What is different here is that the queen is cloning herself and so are the males, that is, if they can prove this theory. Perhaps the fireants are evolving into a super
    • Most of the ants in a colony are workers. But workers are a dead end for genes. Only the males and queens pass their genetic material to future colonies. The remarkable part about this finding is that for this one species (or is it two?), new males have only the father's genes and new females (queens) have only the mother's genes. Workers have a mix. This is different from the typical case for other ants and other animals, where the parent genes are mixed to produce both male and female offspring.
  • God forbid . . . (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Yocto Yotta (840665)
    You'd think if the animal's can do it, we'd be allowed too. I say this is lovely fuel for the fire.
  • by ViX44 (893232) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:29PM (#12974740)
    I find it interesting that they speak as though the male ants had an intelligence that decided to modify its genes as described. I tried changing my genes and it didn't help me run faster, jump higher, or gain the ability to remember where I put my keys. Usually, I don't find those bad boys until I change my jeans.
    • by jcgf (688310) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:43PM (#12974796)
      I remember back in the '80s we used to modify our jeans with a pair of scissors. That didn't help us run faster, jump higher, or gain the ability to remember where we put our keys either. Oh well 2 down, ininitely many more to go.
      • I remember back in the '70s when I tried to Modify my Jean with a pair of scissors. It didn't make her run faster, jump higher, or gain the ability to remember where I put my keys, either.

        In fact, all it got me was a release from jail for murder last week.

        • Man I thought I stole the show with my comment but damn....
          • It's okay. Yours is good. I've just got a great deal more experience at saying outrageous and outrageously stupid things.

            I was something of an army brat, and till I was about 14 all my friends were over 60 vets, buddies of my Grandpa.

            Of course, I didn't get to polish it up until I was in the JROTC.

            Nothing like being 16 and 'talking' your 'supply sergeant' into giving you live ammo for a gun so you and your pals could go down to the shooting range.

            High Times.

  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:30PM (#12974746) Homepage
    Whether they clone or not doesn't concern me. They are all equal in my eyes when I'm holding the Raid can.
    • Whether they clone or not doesn't concern me. They are all equal in my eyes when I'm holding the Raid can.
      But, being clones, would it not be easier to manufacture something more effective than your can of Raid?
    • Raid (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Q: How does the PHB make the IT department's server storage redundant and bug free?

      A: He sprays it with Raid.


      Lame, I know....
      • That's assuming you have a PHB who can point the can in the right direction. Still, a Raid solution is better than none. :P
  • by Faust7 (314817) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:32PM (#12974751) Homepage
    This is the first instance in the animal kingdom where males reproduce exclusively by cloning

    Are you kidding? How do you think Slashdotters reproduce?
  • by sabernet (751826) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:37PM (#12974768) Homepage
    They are an afront to Jesus and the holy book and thy sinning, cloning, ants that dare copulate in an unnatural way must be cast down to the lair of Satan.
  • nomenclature (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:41PM (#12974784)
    One of my pet peeves is how the media in general consistently screws up binomial nomenclature...it's not Wasmannia Auropunctata - the correct form is Wasmannia auropunctata...the genus name is capitalized, the species name is not...ever! Petty? Maybe...but only if you feel that being correct is not important...non-scientists just don't take the time to understand & then blame scientists for not telling them...so consider yourself told. :)
  • by gardyloo (512791) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:53PM (#12974847)
    "This apparently gave males both the time and the means to evolve a counterattack--converting some of the workers into males."



    Huh. Around here, we hang up posters of nekkid queen ants. Oooooh, those unarticulated segements! Kind of makes you want to pupate, doesn't it?
  • zerg (Score:3, Funny)

    by Lord Omlette (124579) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @02:55PM (#12974852) Homepage
    Clearly, all ants are going to hell.
  • while(1) fork();
  • by jabex (320163) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @03:07PM (#12974894) Homepage
    From the article:
    "'It's a selfish strategy initiated by females [in which] queens transmit 100 percent of their genome,' Fournier said."

    Wow, sounds like Fournier is waging his own battle of the sexes. Those selfish females, they want to clone themselves rather than have sex with me!
  • small case species (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xipho (193257) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @03:07PM (#12974895)
    Its Wasmannia aropunctata not "Wasmannia Auropunctata", the species name is never in caps. No chance in hell the editors would catch that though...
  • by Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @03:12PM (#12974915)
    The Nat. Geographic article hints at how this works, basically all the DNA from the female is eliminated from the egg by the male DNA.

    The way the submitter, and the New Scientist teaser worded it you were left wondering exactly how the male ants cloned themselves. Little ant laboratories perhaps? Being a matriarchy, I'm sure their government disapproves. :)
  • by kd5ujz (640580) <.william. .at. .ram-gear.com.> on Sunday July 03, 2005 @03:12PM (#12974917)
    But..but..they will not have a soul.
  • Male? Female? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ManoMarks (574691) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @03:25PM (#12974954) Journal
    Are these classifications really relevant to this species? I'm always amused by the need of scientists to classify species as male and female. Like the Sea Horse, where the "male" gets pregnant. How meaningful is that?
    • one has an X chromosone, the other a Y - this can be a pretty significant difference.
      • one has an X chromosone, the other a Y - this can be a pretty significant difference.

        Sex determination in ants is by haplodiploidy [wikipedia.org]: females have the full set of double chromosomes, whilst males only have one of each chromosome. The sterile workers get all their father's chromosomes, and half of their mother's chromosomes, which makes them 75% genetically related to each other, and that is what makes altruism evolutionarily favored among workers.

      • Not all animals have equivalents of X and Y chromosomes, and even if they do, they don't necessarily follow the human pattern.

        Human males have one X and one Y chromosome, and human females have two X's. But the female chicken is the heterogametic sex in that species. Hens have two different sex chromosomes, Z and W. Roosters have two copies of Z.

        • Re:Male? Female? (Score:3, Informative)

          by lav-chan (815252)

          It isn't even always that simple in humans, either. There are females with only one X chromosome. There are also males with two X chromosomes plus a Y chromosome, and males with two Y chromosomes plus an X chromosome. There are even males and females that are completely opposite of the way they should be (males with XX and females with XY). And then there are some that are even crazier, like with three or four or maybe even five chromosomes.

          This is pretty rare (like 1% of all people, i think, and a lot of

    • I'm pretty sure the male seahorse fertilizes then carries the eggs until they are ready to hatch. Someone correct me if I'm wrong (as if that needs to be said)
    • I'm always amused by the need of scientists to classify species as male and female.

      I wouldn't call it a need. Most species can be easily broken down into two distinct 'groups', usually one that fertalises the other's eggs (or analog). It is convenient to call these 'male' and 'female'.

      In the case of most ants, we have the female queen who is fertalised by a male. We also have a whole worker 'caste' which is, by convention, 'female' because they're much more similar to a queen than to a male. However,

  • How do they manage to survive as species without the benefit of variation from sexual reproduction?
    • Evolution at a higher level than genotype ("culture", in a way, although that seems far-fetched for ants :), or through mutation, for example. Sexual reproduction mostly allows to recombine existing genes in a new way. What I'm wondering about is how the different colonies can make the difference between themselves and sister colonies.
    • by (negative video) (792072) <me AT teco-xaco DOT com> on Sunday July 03, 2005 @04:15PM (#12975164)
      How do they manage to survive as species without the benefit of variation from sexual reproduction?
      The workers, which are most exposed to the big nasty world, get half their genes from each parent. That gives some variation, and the (cloned) fertile ants have their food and water thoroughly filtered by the workers, which gives them protection that most parthenogenic species don't get. This genetic system was only recently discovered and the investigations are very preliminary, so it isn't yet known if crossing-over occurs rarely.
  • Colony genetics (Score:5, Informative)

    by scaryfish (664305) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @04:09PM (#12975146)
    Ants (and bees) have some pretty interesting genetics going on. The evolutionary reason behind why they form hives and colonies is kind of counter-intuitive - why would a worker give up its reproductive potential?

    Bees are haplo-diploid. That means that females are diploid (2 copies of every chromosome) but males are haploid, forming from unfertilised eggs. So when eggs are fertilised by males, the offspring (workers) end up having 1/2 their mother's DNA but all of their fathers. This means that unlike "normal" sexual reproduction, siblings share 3/4 of their DNA on average, which is more than they could share with their own offspring. So it is in their genes best interest to help produce more siblings than to produce their own offspring.

    • The evolutionary reason behind why they form hives and colonies is kind of counter-intuitive - why would a worker give up its reproductive potential?

      You're approaching this the wrong way. I think Matt Ridley said it best - "the gene's eye view". The genome of the ant/bee species continues. In this view, the genes "use" the workers and the reproductive individuals in much the same way. With evolution, the question is "what best promotes the genes?" Or, more bluntly (and perhaps more accurately), "wha

      • Well.. yeah. Perhaps I wasn't clear, I meant it is initially weird to think that giving up reproduction would be a successful evolutionary strategy. But when you take a look at the genetics behind it, it makes sense.
  • Click here [ezboard.com] to read.
  • With such a narrow gene pool, could this be an indication that this particular species has attained an evolutionary standpoint at which the present DNA happens to be at the end of its possible evolution?

    Some genetics/evolution specialists here care to explain?
  • these ants have struck the perfect balance between diversity and population. They need one-quarter as many males as females.

    There's an appropriate gene combination for every form of significant ecological change the colony has previously encountered. When the ecology changes, the queens and males breed experimental variations of the species. Those that add a new combination that provides the form of worker ant that will keep the colony alive will join the ranks of the self-cloning.

    I always end up seein
  • If animals all reproduced by cloning, how would shy parents be able to teach their kids about sex?
  • by krunk4ever (856261) on Sunday July 03, 2005 @06:05PM (#12975773) Homepage
    i'm not sure why cloning in nature comes to us as a surprise at all. all single cellular organisms duplicate themselves (i.e. cloning). we've already known for a long that that many animals in the animal kingdom are known to have asexual reproduction.

    from http://biology.about.com/library/weekly/aa090700a. htm [about.com]

    In asexual reproduction, one individual produces offspring that are genetically identical to itself. These offspring are produced by mitosis. There are many invertebrates, including sea stars and sea anemones for example, that produce by asexual reproduction.
  • Sorry, but it is the female worker bees, and not the male drones, that sometimes clone themselves. AFAIK, this has only been observed in queenless colonies and has been explained as a genetic escape mechanism. Without a queen, a hive would otherwise be a reproductive dead end. When unfertilized workers lay haploid eggs in response to lack of queen pheromones, all of the eggs become male drones. Although the colony remains doomed, the drones can go out and mate with queens from other colonies and continue t

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