A Butterfly Species Is Evolving Without Any Males, Which Is Pretty Amazing

I don’t want to sound like a misandrist, because I love a good man, but these butterflies that have evolved to live without males in their species sort of turn me on. Because it’s pretty cool. According to Richard ffrench-Constant, a professor at the University of Exeter, there are two subspecies of African queen butterflies in Kenya that are infected with a bacteria called bacterium Spiroplasma ixodeti. The bacteria causes male eggs to not hatch, plain and simple. The female larvae that do hatch eat the male eggs, and so the species keeps the bacteria and keeps hatching male eggs that never make it.

Dr. ffrench-Constant told The Washington Post, “The sisters eating their dead brothers is just a byproduct of the males dying in their eggs. Many caterpillars eat their own eggs after hatching, so it’s probably just a byproduct of that.” It’s not as evil as it sounds — it’s nature. So the queens just do their own thing without men around. Since they don’t have any dude butterflies to mate with and make their babies, they accept male-callers from other species to procreate. And the queens don’t travel to find their mates, much like I will not go on a Tinder date that involves changing subway lines. Males from other species fly in, they interbreed, the males don’t hatch, and the whole process repeats itself.

Also, look how lazy butterfly sex is:

So what does this mean? According to Walther Traut, a biologist at the University of Lübbek, “This is like a smoking gun for the way in which species become distinct.” Because the subspecies can’t mate with males of their own species, all of the butterfly babies are a mix. So eventually, the subspecies of the two African queen butterflies will become extinct and there will be new, mixed species.

Did your head just explode? Mine sort of did. Usually, says Dr. ffrench-Constant, researchers think species become extinct because of climate change or something. “We tend to think of new species coming about due to environmental changes but here it’s clearly the microbe that is driving these two subspecies apart,” he said.

It’s sort of crazy that a bacteria could just attack the male eggs, but I like to imagine that the female butterflies just thought men of their own species were sort of assholes and decided to trade up. That is complete BS and not scientific, but females are strong as hell, right? Nature works in mysterious ways.