I’m a first year university student and I have a burning question about ants I was hoping you could help me with. I like ants a lot. I also don’t understand how they exist at all. From what I know, ants have one, or sometimes a few queens, and the rest of the female ants are infertile because of hormones the queen secretes. I’ve also heard that less male offspring reach maturity because the worker ants taking care of the young prioritize resources to the female offspring. This is where my confusion starts. Shouldn’t so few mating individuals leave the population with very low genetic diversity, making them vulnerable to disease and predation and other bad stuff? But it seems to me like the ants are thriving! Since I started thinking about this, about a week ago, I haven’t been able to think about anything else. I tried googling it but I couldn’t find anything (at least not anything I could understand). So now I’m reaching out to you! Thanks in ant-vance! Evelyn 🙂
I don’t think you need to worry overmuch about ants, as they have been incredibly successful (an estimated 20 × 1015 (20 quadrillion) ants on Earth, with a total biomass of 12 megatons of dry carbon. This exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals – https://tinyurl.com/bdcrcc5c ).
That aside, a queen ant may mate with two or more males, and thus her stored sperm will have a fair amount of genetic diversity. ( https://tinyurl.com/47zest27 ) . Also, outbreeding is fairly common – see https://tinyurl.com/26nxwdt7 for an example.
Finally, for something really different, “Yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepisgracilipes) are the first known species that requires chimerism to create fertile males (Every male ant contains separate populations of cells from two distinct genetic lineages).” See https://tinyurl.com/mtawemk2 for details.