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Ants manage incest without inbreeding

Unorthodox family structure may have helped insect spread

By
7:00pm, February 1, 2011

An odd reproductive biology lets longhorn crazy ants mate with their siblings without inbreeding — and it also turns out to be useful for world domination.

That power has probably helped Paratrechina longicornis become one of the most widespread invasive ants in the tropics, says evolutionary biologist Morgan Pearcy of the Free University of Brussels. The tiny ants with long antennae, nicknamed crazy ants because they dash along erratically instead of following foraging trails, now occupy so much of the tropics that scientists haven’t figured out where they originated.

In lab tests, queens produce some daughters that are clones of themselves and that will also become queens. The queen’s sons — very oddly — turn out to be genetically identical to the queen’s mate. Thus a queen’s son can mate with her daughter in a pairing that’s genetically equivalent to a pairing of nonsiblings. The next generation thus does no

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