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The Joy of sets: For ants and trees, multiple partners are a boon
Date:9/21/2010

cupation by different combinations of the four ant partners. The ostensible freeloaders turned out to be more than they seemed, he said.

The ant that conspires with a wood-boring beetle that can kill trees? It turns out that before it kills them, it causes them to produce an inordinate number of seeds, Palmer said. Likewise, the ant that castrates the tree is actually an aggressive defender, so while the tree doesn't reproduce for many years, it is likely to survive to produce fruit more down the road after the castrator is evicted by another ant species.

And the ant that appeared to be a do-nothing actually does just enough, Palmer said. "It defends trees a little bit, but unlike the other ant species, it is very faithful and hardly ever abandons the tree," he said. "And having any ant at all is very much better than having no ant, because if you have no ants, you get hammered by everything from caterpillars to elephants."


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Contact: Todd Palmer
tmp@ufl.edu
352-214-0894
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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