Natures wonders: Ants protect a plant they live in (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Friday, December 04, 2015, 00:52 (1680 days ago) @ David Turell

This is a triple symbiosis as the article explains. A specific plant, a specific ant species and a third organism that supplies the ant diet:

"Seemingly helpless against their much more lively natural enemies, plants have actually come up with a wide range of defences. In the present research,...focus[ed] on the mutualistic relationship developed between a specific Neotropical knotweed and an ant species. During a series of ant-exclusion experiments the scientists observed and subsequently reported an aggressive and highly protective behaviour.


"'When an ant encountered a caterpillar, a worker approached and detected it with its antennae, and then recruited more workers. Typically more than 10 workers were recruited around the intruder in less than five minutes," shared their observations the researchers. "Several workers harassed the herbivore by stinging or biting, until it dropped off the plant. The caterpillars usually hung by a silk thread and attempted to move back onto the plant. However, individuals of Pseudomyrmex continued to chase them until they dropped again. This cycle was repeated several times."


"The herein researched Neotropical plant have found its way of survival through becoming the only host to the ant species Pseudomyrmex dendroicus, characterised with remarkable eyes, light brown body and potent venom, injected through a well-developed sting. In its turn, the knotweed shelters their entire colony in its hollow stems while another symbiont, scale insects, feeds them with the sugary sticky liquid it secrets on digesting plant sap."

Comment: Clever triple arrangement. Everyone benefits except the caterpillar. No clear evidence of how it might have bee arranged in the beginning.

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