Navigation Links
When industrious ants go too far
Date:4/28/2009

Nature is full of mutually beneficial arrangements between organismslike the relationship between flowering plants and their bee pollinators. But sometimes these blissful relationships have a dark side, as Harvard biologist Megan Frederickson describes in an article for the May issue of The American Naturalist.

Generally, the relationship between ants and plants is a great example of biological mutualism. Myrmecophyte plantsotherwise known as ant-plants often provide home for several species of ants. The plant shelters ant colonies in hollow spaces in its limbs or leaves. The ants, in turn, protect the plant against threats from other insects or encroaching vegetation. The ants get a home; the plant gets protectioneverybody wins.

But sometimes the delicate balance is tipped toward one partner or the other.

In her article, Dr. Frederickson describes the tumultuous relationship between the ant-plant C. Nodosa and the ant species A. octoarticulatus. The relationship between these two species is much like that of other ants and ant-plants, until it comes time for the plant to reproduce. When Nodosa begins to flower, the ants attack the buds, lopping them off before they get a chance to spread seeds. The ant, in effect, sterilizes its gracious host. Ingrates.

So what do the ants have to gain from this?

"When researchers first described this intriguing behavior over a decade ago, they suggested that perhaps the ants destroy flowers to promote the growth of their host plants, much as gardeners prune roses to encourage the growth of their rose bushes," Frederickson says. The larger the plant, the more living space the ants have.

To test this assertion, Frederickson measured the growth rate of sterilized and non-sterilized Nodosa plants. Sure enough, the sterilized plants grew faster, providing more space for ants to inhabit.

Octoarticulatus ants are taking advantage of a trade-off between reproduction and growth. Since the plant is sterilized, and no longer allocating resources to reproduction, those resources are re-routed into growthand more living space for ants.

So in this relationship, the ant wins, and the plant appears to have lost.

So does this mean that octoarticulatus is really a parasite rather than a mutual partner? That's hard to say, according to Dr. Frederickson. Nodosa plants generally live about 77 years, while ant colonies only live seven to 14 years. Perhaps, Frederickson says, octoarticulatus helps Nodosa plants survive and grow until another ant speciesone that doesn't sterilize its hostcomes along and allows it to reproduce.


'/>"/>

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

Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/22/2016)... 2016   Acuant , the leading ... has partnered with RightCrowd ® to ... Management, Self-Service Kiosks and Continuous Workforce Assurance. ... functional enhancements to existing physical access control ... with an automated ID verification and authentication ...
(Date:6/20/2016)... , June 20, 2016 Securus Technologies, ... technology solutions for public safety, investigation, corrections and ... prisons involved, it has secured the final acceptance ... facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) installed. Furthermore, ... facilities to be installed by October, 2016. MAS ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... , June 9, 2016  Perkotek an innovation leader in attendance control systems is ... log work hours, for employers to make sure the right employees are actually signing ... http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160609/377486LOGO ... ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)...   Ginkgo Bioworks , a leading organism ... today awarded as one of the World Economic ... most innovative companies. Ginkgo Bioworks is engineering biology ... world in the nutrition, health and consumer goods ... customers including Fortune 500 companies to design microbes ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced ... this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has signed a ... serve as their official health care provider. As ... provide sponsorship support, athletic training services, and most ... athletes and families. "We are excited ... to bring Houston Methodist quality services and programs ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, the Industry Network for electronics ... Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s mission is to bring ... designed, built and brought to market. , The Design Lab is Supplyframe’s physical ...
Breaking Biology Technology: