To Fly, Or Not To Fly?

With the coming of Spring, it is traditional to turn our attention to the more romantic side of nature. I see that Cremer et al from the U of Regensburg reported on an interesting study (1) of the tactics of males of the ant species Cardiocondyla obscurior, which Seifert describes as a “cosmopolitan tramp species”. There are two types males in the colony. Those wingless guys who duke it out and laid back docile guys with large wings.

Of course all the guys are competitive, but if you have wings, you have more options. The wingless guys have no choice but to stay and find mates on their home turf. They are not good at tolerating those namby-pamby flyboys around their girls. For their part the flyboys use female perfumery to disguise their presence in the dark recesses of the nest.

This works less well as they grow older and eventually, they kick the dust off their feet and fly away to pastures new with virgin queens who are easier to win. If there are few or no wingless guys about at home, the emigration is not necessary and they can make hay with the young lady ants at home. We learn that those flyboys are very flexible in their behavior, one might even say opportunistic in their mating tactics.

Thinking about the mass migration of youngsters during Spring Break in the US or for summer vacation in the EU we should be pleased that, unlike the ants, this has not been a dispersal process.


One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    Makes one wonder why the two varieties of male have evolved for the one species of ant, although most species seem to go for the lazy fly-boy type. Hmmm...

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