What the f*# are ants

Close up of a human looking Ant. Source: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/350999364690834272/?lp=true

The beginning

The castes

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atta.cephalotes.gamut.selection.jpg
  • Queen (Largest 6)
  • Soldiers (2nd row biggest)
  • Guards
  • Gardeners/Nurses
  • Trash Handlers
  • Builders/Excavators
  • Foragers
Soldier Ant. Source: https://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Caste_Terminology — — Trap-jaw ants capable of shutting at speeds of 130+mph Source: https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/08/21_ant.shtml — — Comparisons of various Queens and their workers (Left — Right pairs) Source: https://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Caste_Terminology

How does this happen?

Human chromosomes. Source: https://www.scienceabc.com/humans/why-do-males-need-an-x-chromosome.html

Haplodiploidy — this word is too much

Males 1 genes in black. Queen in yellow, Male 2 in green. Males have one chromosome, females have two. Source: https://youtu.be/PmQ89Gw7ltE

How do they pick what caste to be?

Back to being social

  • b is the benefits of raising relatives young
  • r is the strength of genetic relationship or similarity to the non-direct young you would look after (indirectly or directly)
  • c is cost incurred by not breeding

Problem 1

Problem 2

Problem 3

At the end of the day, some insects still possess the ability to leave the colony as a female worker and transform into a queen and start their own colony.

So a summary

  • do metamorphosis
  • have a caste system
  • have survived despite only 1 in an entire colony can lay eggs
  • a single female can give birth to a brand new colony, without a male
  • clean their nests, enact judgement on who is who and have a social structure with specialisms
  • they worked all this out millions of years before any other animals
An objectively ugly naked mole rat pulling a similar face to me when I found out they are eusocial. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_mole-rat

Inspired by Seirian Sumner’s “How did the social insects become social” from “What’s next? Dispatches on the future of science” 2009

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