Genetic engineering

This green aphid is populating the world with herself. She’s a virgin, and by cloning herself, she produces a genetically identical daughter every 20 minutes. The babies even have babies inside them - so the mother aphid nurtures her granddaughters even before they’re born. Such prolific clones bent solely on breeding are easy pickings for others. A solitary wasp lays her eggs in the aphid's body, and the aphids are a feast for voracious ladybirds. Half the clones are born with wings to accelerate their expanding empire. They disperse in the summer air to colonise neighbouring plants. During the good times, when plants are growing, each aphid races to copy herself. Males have no place, and don't exist until later when autumn draws near - now the females suddenly switch to producing orange-coloured babies, some of which will be males. She engineers sex into her offspring because the coming seasons are unpredictable - the next summer might be very different from the one in which she was born. To copulate, the aphids fly off to fruit trees and when they mature, the females lose their wings and the males turn as rampant as any red deer stag. Because they have dispersed, it’s very likely that the mating partners come from different clones: having sex with your own clone is the most useless sex imaginable. By opting for sex, the female aphid is cannily exploiting males from other clones to inject a bit of variety into her line when the future is uncertain. Her eggs will overwinter, and as the conditions next spring are unpredictable, she has produced a brood of dormant embryos which all differ from each other - some are bound to survive. Genetic variability is a weapon to battle with environmental changes. In a perfect and stable world, it’s likely all females of all species would prefer to clone, but getting rid of males is difficult once they’re there.

Release date:


4 minutes


Role Contributor
ProducerJohn SPARKS
NarratorSamuel WEST
Camera OperatorDoug ALLAN
Camera OperatorManuel HINGE
Camera OperatorPaul JOHNSON
Camera OperatorPeter PARKS
Camera OperatorNeil RETTIG
Camera OperatorTim SHEPHERD
Camera OperatorWarwick SLOSS
Camera OperatorSimon WAGEN

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