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How ants tame the wilderness: Rainforest species use chemicals to identify which plants to prune
Date:5/11/2011

ost tree leaves compared with papers coated with waxes from a closely related species, T. poeppigiana. The ants more aggressively attacked papers coated with the T. poeppigiana extracts demonstrating both the extremely high degree of specificity for their host tree and that the chemical signal allowing them to accurately distinguish their host from other plants is present in leaf surface waxes.

The team also found that even during rainy periods when ant activity was minimal they still defended their host tree if disturbed. This included attacking ants from a neighbouring nest if they ventured too close to the tree.

"Researchers have observed pruning behaviour in ants before, and the explanations for this type of behaviour range from limiting competition to host plants to preventing foliar bridges between the host tree and other plants that would allow invading ant species access to the colony," concluded Weir. "However, this is one of the first studies to examine the specificity and chemical signals involved in this particular ant-plant interaction."


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Contact: Ben Norman
Lifesciencenews@wiley.com
44-012-437-70375
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert  

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