Most of the last half of Hunter x Hunter (2011), episodes 76 to 136, covers the famous Chimera Ant Arc. This has always been my favorite of the arcs because I love anime that features intelligent, nonhuman creatures preying on or rebelling against humans. So I came up with a discussion of some elements of the Chimera Ant Arc, and the first is “how they work.”
As Ging suggested, Chimera Ants are probably not from the same world as the normal wildlife of HxH. To understand properly why the Chimera Ants lost, we must first understand their “biology.” The following info is true of the the Ants in their small insect forms as well as their later humanoid forms. (However, the later, humanoid Chimeras in the NGL were also driven by human insticts.)
Natural history and Behavior of Chimera Ants
Unlike any animals or insects known in reality, Queen Chimera Ants reproduce with phagogenesis. To put it simply, babies can carry traits of anything that mommy ate. The mother does not require sex to produce offspring. She deposits large, hanging eggs (really more like sacs) within which are the larvae of chimera ants. These “eggs” do not require fertilization from males. Not every Chimera Ant can use phagogenesis. It can only be done by females who 1) have claimed dominion as Queen over a small army, and 2) give up all activities except eating tons of food and making egg sacs.
(In addition, a Queen with phagogenesis power may be produced by the sexual union of a mature Chimera Ant King and his chosen female. Since the King is always born from an established Queen, the traits associated with being a Queen are guaranteed to pass on. The intercourse of a King and a chosen female from the colony is the only case I know of where sex is required for Chimera Ant reproduction.)
Since most Chimera Ants have no need sexual intercourse or egg fertilization, why do they even have sexes? The answer to that is pretty easy, as there a few cases of this in real biology of insects and reptiles. Sex is probably determined by presence or absence of internal organs needed for forming and laying eggs. In that case, you may wonder, why can’t every female Chimera Ant make offpsring? The anime gives no guidance on this point, but looking again at examples in biology, we can find the answer.
In eusocial species like Naked Mole-Rats, females undergo a hormonal change (exact cause unknown) that makes them incapable of breeding as long as they with the Queen. Some of them don’t have that change, and may compete for dominion, but they ususally end up killed by the existing Queen. Something similar probably happens with Chimera Ant females. None have the desire to be a Queen until after the current one dies. To reproduce, an female must settle on a nest and have followers who will bring huge amounts of food. Zanzan tries to do this, but she is killed before succeeding.
A King can only be born from the Queen through a special birth more like the live-birth of mammals.
The HxH FANDOM Wiki notes that a King Chimera Ant is capable of impregnating any female with the traits of the next Queen. I don’t think this means that Zanzan, for instance, couldn’t have become a “real” Queen. Any female could become a Queen of a colony if she had enough power, charimsa, and resources. At intervals, they produce Kings.
King Chimera Ants are born with a lot of natural charisma and strength. An Ant is denoted as the King when he is the most powerful of all of the offpsring produced by the Queen to date. Meruem, the King in HxH, had far more Nen power than any other Ant, and his aura was what made all others obey him. However, the small and primitive Chimera Ants would need a non-Nen mechanism that would guarantee the dominance of the King. I suspect that mechanism would be pheromones, given off by the King to make their Royal Guards (and other powerful Ants) submit to their command.
Now what about the command structure of the Chimera Ants? The Queen is the highest authority until such time as the King is born. The Queen commands the Royal Guards, a handful of Ants whose duty it is to leave the nest with the King after he is born. Below the Royal Guards are three ranks of soldier Ants. There are the Squad Leaders, each with a force of Captains under them. Captains commands Peons (or Grunts). There’s probably one rank even below that: the Carpenters, who cannot speak or fight, existing only build nest castles with mud and excretion.
(After the King is born, he takes the place of the Queen in the command hierarchy.)
After a King leaves the nest with the Royal Guard, the Squadron Leaders and Captains are supposed to stay with the Queen as she produces another round of soldiers and then another King. The exception is if the Queen dies. In that case, Squad Leaders and Captains may follow a King, or else disperse on their own. Although they have no desire to do so unless the King isn’t present and the Queen is dead, male soldier Chimera can mate with females of other species and reproduce.
How The Huge Chimera Ant Queen Came to Exist
In episode 78, the Queen marvels at the mental capacity and distinct identities of her soldiers after they request to have names. She says the following. “While bettering the race, they compete for glory, leading to a stronger sense of individuality. I suppose I am also peculiar for finding this change so fascinating. Perhaps I, too, have traces of human blood within me.”
Though she cannot speak verbally, the Queen has complex thoughts which she can reflect on or communicate to others via telepathy. She is influenced by the natural drive of Chimera Ants more than of humans, but the fact remains she possesses a personal sense of identity and the ability to consider other creatures.
So how did she become so “peculiar” (AKA sentient) in the first place? Well, the anime never states the answer clearly, but from hints provided, the answer becomes apparent. The small and primitive Chimera Ants had been known to occasionally attack humans long before they became quarantined by the Hunter Association.
Somewhere in the isolated wilds, one of more colonies must have grown to considerable size and produced the Queen. They were able to grow so big because of generations of eating larger and larger prey, such as NGL horses.) These large Ants were either wiped out, leaving the Queen as the sole survivor, or they still exist somewhere and could rise up against humans once again. Either way, the Queen drifed to the country of NGL and there built her nest.
In episode 76, Killua was attacked by a several-inches-long Chimera Ant. It bit him and took some of his blood. If not for Kite detaching it and killing it, the phagonetic Ant might have survived, fled, and later produced offspring with a few human traits. A little bit of blood is all that’s needed for phagogenesis to begin to work.
Thank you for reading my Hunter x Hunter Chimera Ant Discussion. I’ve also made a post about why Chimera Ants lost to the humans, so consider checking it out! Jya, ne!!