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Author Topic: Why don't supercolony creatures such as ants evolve faster?  (Read 2434 times)

Offline krytie75

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I was watching the BBC Nature series "Planet Earth" yesterday and David Attenborough mentioned that large ant colonies can contain up to 8 million individual ants.  Considering the vast number of individuals in the colony and the relative shortness of their lives I would have imagined the rate of genetic mutations and hence evolution of the species to be much higher than it seems to be.

Consider how many ants have existed in the last 1000 years.

Obviously this question applies to other super colony creatures, not just ants.


 

Offline Geezer

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Why don't supercolony creatures such as ants evolve faster?
« Reply #1 on: 30/03/2010 06:27:21 »
Why would they? They seem to be doing just fine the way they are. Also, as long as things are going fine, I suspect any mutants are eliminated rather quickly.
 

Offline krytie75

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Why don't supercolony creatures such as ants evolve faster?
« Reply #2 on: 30/03/2010 12:31:32 »
If that were the case, nothing would evolve much at all.  Humans certainly wouldn't have evolved to the level they're at now.  We were doing fine before we lost all our body hair and developed speach.
 

Offline PhysBang

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Why don't supercolony creatures such as ants evolve faster?
« Reply #3 on: 30/03/2010 15:00:55 »
Ants only breed through the queens and the queens only mate with one of a very small percentage of fertile males, so they do not have the same dynamics of their heredity as many animals do. The vast majority of ants are effectively sexless.
 

Offline Geezer

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Why don't supercolony creatures such as ants evolve faster?
« Reply #4 on: 30/03/2010 17:11:41 »
If that were the case, nothing would evolve much at all.  Humans certainly wouldn't have evolved to the level they're at now.  We were doing fine before we lost all our body hair and developed speach.

Ah, but there is an important point. Mutations are more likely to be of value during periods of stress and instability because they might provide a characteristic that is better able to deal with the stress. That characteristic is then more likely to be inherited by subsequent generations. There have been many experiments that demonstrate that characteristics of animals can be altered quite dramatically in a few generations. There was a famous one involving foxes in Russia. I'll post a link if I can find it.

There are also indications that losing our hair (and being able to sweat) was a necessary characteristic for survival. It allowed us to hunt game that could outrun us for short intervals. The fur on the game limits its endurance. Humans on the other hand can track an animal almost indefinitely, certainly long enough so that it becomes quite exhausted. African hunters still demonstrate this ability. If they were covered in hair, they would not be able to do it.   
 

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Why don't supercolony creatures such as ants evolve faster?
« Reply #4 on: 30/03/2010 17:11:41 »

 

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