Clone troopers are marching along the dusty valley. The reconnaissance squadron informed of a source of valuable resources controlled by the enemy to the north-west from the base. Immediately a large army of experienced troopers has been dispatched to take control of the resources.
They are clones – purely identical copies of an individual with the same structure and content of DNA. They have been created and bred to serve for special purposes, realize specific tasks, and dedicate their lives to achieving certain goals. In order to make this happen, the DNA of the selected organisms has been modified according to each one’s specialization.
The clone troopers are getting closer to the target. They are ready to attack and die for their masters…

Looks like a snapshot from the “Star Wars” Universe, isn’t it?

However, these clone troopers do not have two legs and two arms. They are not of human origin. They are not a result of someone’s imagination, but REAL creatures. And they are EVERYWHERE AROUND YOU!
They are ANTS!

Ants are the members of the order Hymenoptera and represent the Formicidae family. These are socially organized insects that form huge colonies of thousands organisms working together as small civilizations. And the interesting thing is that 98 % of all members of a colony are identical copies, i.e. clones.

In the “headquarters” of an ants’ colony lies a comparatively big female called the “queen”. This is a constantly working cloning machine: each day it produces hundreds of unfertilized eggs that are immediately transported to the specific chambers of the colony. The ants hatching from these eggs and developing by complete metamorphosis (through the stage of pupae) are genetically identical and sterile females that become specialized workers. Only in certain period of a year the “queen” gives birth to male (“drones”) and female ants with wings and the reproduction ability. After pairing the winged females establish a new colony or return to the old one and become the new “queens”.

Although all workers are clones, there are some changes in their genomes – in such way the “queen” can “program” each organism for serving certain purpose. Thus the colony has the castes system with several types of workers: builders, nurses, farmers, shepherds, scouts and others. In some species the role and specialty of clones may change with their age – some sort of climbing the career ladder.
The workers from the military caste called the “soldiers” represent the defense system of the colony and its grand army. In spite of not having blaster rifles and thermal detonators, like the Clone troopers in “Star Wars”, these little warriors still possess a powerful and frightening arsenal: they are equipped with large and strong mandibles, sharp sting to inject formic acid, quite sensitive sensor system, and strong armour of chitinous exoskeleton. Sometimes the soldier’s mandibles are so big that their owner simply cannot take food by himself – the soldier is fed by worker ants.

Some tropical species of ants are so dangerous that even such a mighty predator as Homo sapiens prefer to flee and leave the battlefield to the little but brave warriors. Any creature crazy enough to get in the middle of the ants’ grand army would be covered by the soldiers furiously biting their prey and reaping it to pieces to easily transport back to the colony. If the first line of attackers is destroyed, immediately the second one rushes into the battle, followed by the third one and so on. Even a separated head or decapitated body tries to help other soldiers by biting the legs of the enemy or acting as an obstacle for its counterattack.
There is no escape from these clones!

However, not only ants benefit from the cloning technology. Other social insects from the Hymenoptera order, like bees, bumblebees and wasps, also have their cloning factories that produce worker insects to collect nectar, construct and maintain the nest, protect it from the external threats, etc. And many other animals and plants reproduce themselves by using clonal derivation, in science called as parthenogenesis.

The clones are approaching the target.
Scouts have reported that the allied army has been closing in from the east. The courier from the base has brought the information that the reinforcements could be available in a short period of time.

The enemy is in sight. It is a huge two-legged monster holding the source of food and resources – a sweet substance in a hard shell that has the form of the upside-down cone. On the enemy’s language it is called “ice-cream”. The enemy itself does not have hard armour – it would be easy to bite its flesh; and there are many holes on its body for the soldiers to penetrate into and destroy the monster from the inside.
The source must be obtained. Defeat is not acceptable. Only victory or death.
The pheromones commanding to engage the enemy are spread in the air.
The attack of the clones has begun.

No comments: