Navigation Links
Ants are friendly to some trees, but not others
Date:11/6/2009

Tree-dwelling ants generally live in harmony with their arboreal hosts. But new research suggests that when they run out of space in their trees of choice, the ants can get destructive to neighboring trees.

The research, published in the November issue of the American Naturalist, is the first to document that ants bore into live trees, and it reopens a centuries-old debate on the relationship between ants and plants.

Ants and certain species of plants and trees have cozy relationships. Myrmecophytes, also knows as ant-plants, have hollow stems or roots that occur as a normal part of their development. Ant colonies often take residence in these hollows. To protect their homes, the ants patrol the area around the tree, killing insects that want to eat the plant's leaves and sometimes destroying vegetation of other plants that might compete for precious soil nutrients and sunlight. The relationship is a classic biological mutualism. The ants get a nice place to live; the trees get protection. Everybody wins.

But while researching ant-plants in the Amazonian rainforests of Peru, Douglas Yu of the University of East Anglia and Glenn Shepard of Sao Paulo University were tipped off by the local people about a strange phenomenon. The natives showed the researchers several non-myrmecophyte trees with swollen scars called galls on their trunks and branches. When the researchers cut into the galls, they found that ants had excavated tunnels into the live wood.

"Ants are superb ecosystem engineers," David Edwards the lead author of the study said, "but this is the first example of ants galling trees to make housing."

Megan Frederickson, a Harvard biologist and member of the research team, searched 1,000 square kilometers of forest and found numerous galled trees inhabited by ants, suggesting the behavior is not uncommon. The galled trees were only found on the edges of "Devil's gardens"ant-made forest clearings that surround stands of ant-plants. It appears, the researchers say, that when the colonies fill the available space in the ant-plants, they branch out and carve new nests into neighboring trees.

The discovery reopens a debate that raged among Charles Darwin and his contemporaries about the relationship between ants and plants. Darwin believedrightly as it turned outthe hollow spaces in ant-plants occurred as part of the plant's normal development. Since the ants did no damage to the plant, the relationship could be considered a mutualism. Botanist Richard Spruce disagreed. He believed the ants bored the hollows themselves and that the trees needed ants "like a dog needs fleas." In Spruce's view, ants are parasites.

Studies in the 1960s showed definitively that ant-plant hollows occur normally, vindicating Darwin. But this latest finding that ants do gall non-myrmecophytic trees shows that Spruce wasn't so wrong after all.


'/>"/>

Contact: Kevin Stacey
kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
773-834-0386
University of Chicago Press Journals
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. In search of wildlife-friendly biofuels
2. Some aspects of birding not always environmentally friendly, professor says
3. Queens scientists discover eco-friendly wood dissolution
4. MU scientists go green with gold, distribute environmentally friendly nanoparticles
5. Friendly bacteria protect against type 1 diabetes, Yale researchers find
6. Corporations can profit from being environmentally friendly
7. University of Leicester scientists discover technique to help friendly bacteria
8. As ash borer claims more trees, researcher at ISU works for species survival
9. Plastic that grows on trees, part two
10. Heavy metals accumulate more in some mushrooms than in others
11. Despite risk, older African-Americans more likely than others to avoid flu vaccine
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/29/2017)... 2017  higi, the health IT company that operates ... America , today announced a Series B investment ... EveryMove. The new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s strategy ... transform population health activities through the collection and workflow ... higi collects and secures data today on behalf of ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 24, 2017 The Controller General of Immigration from ... Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for the ... Continue Reading ... ... Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the IAIR ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... Mar. 23, 2017 Research and Markets has ... Analysis & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025" report to ... ... a CAGR of around 8.8% over the next decade to reach ... analyzes the market estimates and forecasts for all the given segments ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... BALTIMORE, Md. (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 ... ... for digital pathology, announced today it will be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology ... of  Advanced Pathology Associates , on digital pathology adoption best practices and how ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Singh Biotechnology today announced ... to SBT-100, its novel anti-STAT3 (Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3) B ... to cross the cell membrane and bind intracellular STAT3 and inhibit its function. ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... 2017 International research firm Parks Associates announced today ... the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... home security market and how smart safety and security products impact the ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: ... "The residential security market has experienced ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... The award-winning American Farmer television ... quarter 2018. American Farmer airs Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global ... the challenge of how to continue to feed a growing nation. At the same ...
Breaking Biology Technology: