The yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes, is notorious for being one of the world’s worst invasive species. But this species has recently caught the attention of an international team of researchers due to its incredibly unique reproductive system. Scientists have discovered that the males of this ant species have two sets of chromosomes, an abnormality that is highly unexpected since males usually develop from unfertilized eggs. This perplexing finding has led a team of researchers to further investigate, and the results were more extraordinary than expected.
It was found that the males of the yellow crazy ant are real-life chimeras, having both maternal and paternal DNA present in different cells. While chimerism has been observed in species like corals and angler fish, it is usually caused by the fusion of two separate individuals or from the exchange of cells between mother and fetus. This mode of reproduction in the yellow crazy ant, however, is entirely new to science and is the result of a single fertilized egg.
The Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has been at the forefront of this research and their findings have been recently published in Science magazine. The research was spearheaded by Dr. Hugo Darras, Assistant Professor at JGU, who commented on the incredible discovery. He said that the male ants have two genomes, meaning one genome in each cell, and it is currently unclear what mechanisms control this process.
JGU is a research university in Mainz, Germany, renowned for its excellence in a range of disciplines, including the sciences and engineering. The university also fosters an environment of interdisciplinary collaboration and encourages students to pursue their interests without constraints.
Dr. Hugo Darras is an Assistant Professor at JGU and lead author of the article recently published in Science. He received his PhD in Entomology and Zoology from the University of Paris and has continued his scientific investigation on the yellow crazy ant species. Notable for his expertise in insect biology, Darras is interested in the mechanisms of adaptation in insect societies and the evolutionary dynamics of social insects.