Relationship gurus may quip that men and women are from different planets, but in one case at least, males and females may be different species. Researchers from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan investigating colonies of the little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata in French Guiana and New Caledonia discovered that unlike other ants, queens of the species essentially clone themselves. They emerge from unfertilized eggs and receive genes solely from their mothers. Not to be outdone, male little fire ants also clone themselves, via a male genome that can apparently eliminate any female genetic contribution in fertilized eggs, thereby leading to sons being exact copies of fathers. Only the sterile workers of the species inherit genes from both parents, meaning that the male and female gene pools are independent branches in the ant family tree. The June 30 Nature has the details.
This article was originally published with the title "Battle of the Sexes" in Scientific American 293, 3, 34 (September 2005)