We all know how ants forage for food. A bunch of workers are sent out randomly, then, upon finding some delicious munchie, each worker lays a chemical trail back to her nest in the hopes that other workers will follow suit. Whether or not nest mates do in fact reinforce a given trail is dictated largely by an emergent, semi-random selection process involving factors like the evaporation rate of trail pheromones, distance of a food source from the nest, and the size of the food source. So, that’s how all ants forage for food. Except it’s NOT!

The reproductive system of most ants is pretty freaky, by human standards. Unlike in our species, where all individuals have a diploid set of chromosomes, nearly all ant species utilize a “haplodiploid” system in which females are diploid and males are haploid, with only one chromosome for each chromosomal site. So, in order to produce males, a queen lays unfertilized eggs, while in order to produce females, the eggs must be fertilized.

A pleasing chromosome. Photo: Source