Are Men Really That Necessary?

Bonnie Johnson's PostMy daughter-in-law, Holly, was telling us about how many women she has seen operating the really big road improvement equipment lately.  You know, like the monster steam rollers, huge loaders and the like.  I’ve noticed it too and I think it’s terrific.  One of the guys commented that they’d heard that women are gentler on the equipment and more precise in their movements so it bodes well for these companies to hire women for those jobs.  One man in our group (no names mentioned) commented to the other men that they had better be careful because there may come a day when men are just not necessary anymore.  Silly man!  You’re not super necessary now We love men and could never do without you!!

All of this banter reminded me of an article I came across not too long ago about a woman biologist, Anna Himler, of the University of Arizona.  Anna and her colleagues were studying a group of Amazonian ants called Mycocepurus smithii because of their unusually high success at farming fungus.  Apparently many breeds of ants “farm” various types of fungus for nourishment.  That itself bumped up my respect for ants.  I knew they were always very busy but I didn’t realize they were clever enough to be organized farmers!  As Himler and her team studied the insects, they realized there were no male ants anywhere to be found.   Himler told the BBC that it’s possible the ants evolved so as “not to operate under the usual constraints of sexual reproduction.”   Interestingly, the fungi that the ants cultivate also reproduce asexually. But why would these ants choose to emulate the reproductive cycle favored by their crops? Himler explains:
“It avoids the energetic cost of producing males, and doubles the number of reproductive females produced each generation from 50% to 100% of the offspring.”

“Usual constraints of sexual reproduction”“avoids the energetic cost of producing males”?  Wow.  I for one don’t consider having sex with my man “constraining” or even always “usual” (I’m not saying it’s “unusual” either though…sheesh!) And as a proud mother of a son, I can say that yes, there was an energetic cost there, but it was all so worth it.

So, no need to worry men.  I don’t ever see us fading out your gender and cloning ourselves (Bo-or-ring!).  I do think it’s ironic that those ants are from the Amazon though.