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A Female Only Stick Insect Species Has Produced The First Male In Recorded History

A Female Only Stick Insect Species Has Produced The First Male In Recorded History

Stick insects are unusual insects for a variety of reasons. Of course they possess a bizarre stick-like appearance that helps them remain hidden from predators, but stick insects are also reproductively unique. For example, the species of stick insect known as Acanthoxyla inermis does not require males for reproduction. These insects are comprised entirely of females, as far as researchers have been able to determine. Instead of sexual reproduction via male fertilization, these female stick insects can reproduce asexually. This form of reproduction is referred to as “parthenogenetics”. In fact, these stick insects are so well studied, that even the foremost stick insect experts in the world did not believe the claim that a male specimen had been found. Researchers in the United Kingdom have discovered the first male member of the species Acanthoxyla inermis, which may indicate that the females are finally ready to reproduce sexually.

The male insect was discovered by an insect enthusiast who immediately found the insect to be odd looking. After finding the specimen, the man promptly called the nearest entomology office. Experts confirmed that this stick insect was a “mutant male” after applying DNA sequencing technology. Right now researchers are curious as to how the larger population of female stick insects will treat this lone male. Like all other evolutionary events, the existence of this one male occured by chance, now researchers are curious to learn if this one male stick insect will contribute to future generations, and therefore alter the evolutionary trajectory of the Acanthoxyla inermis species. Unfortunately, the male stick insect has recently perished and is now a part of a museum collection, but more male stick insects will likely pop-up in the future. Experts believe that this stick insect species will embrace sexual reproduction once again due to the evolutionary advantages it has over asexual reproduction. Researchers are still trying to figure out how this insect species became all-female in the first place.

Do you believe that more asexual insects will exist in the wild a million years from now? Are insects more apt than other animals to develop the ability to reproduce asexually?

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