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:4/15/2016)... 2016 Research and Markets has ... Market 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... ,The global gait biometrics market is expected to ... period 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates multiple ... used to compute factors that are not or ...
(Date:4/13/2016)...  IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients in ... standard in telehealth thanks to a new partnership with ... IMPOWER patients can routinely track key health measurements, such ... and, when they opt in, share them with IMPOWER ... local retail location at no cost. By leveraging this ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... PROVIDENCE, R.I. , March 31, 2016  Genomics ... leadership of founding CEO, Barrett Bready , M.D., ... addition, members of the original technical leadership team, including ... Vice President of Product Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice ... have returned to the company. Dr. Bready ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... PHILADELPHIA , June 27, 2016  Liquid ... today announced the funding of a Sponsored Research ... study circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients.  ... changes in CTC levels correlate with clinical outcomes ... therapies. These data will then be employed to ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 Epic Sciences ... detects cancers susceptible to PARP inhibitors by targeting ... cells (CTCs). The new test has already been ... in multiple cancer types. Over 230 ... damage response pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... release of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering ... retention in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... TORONTO , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon ... the development and commercialization of a portfolio of ... cancers. Epigenetic targets such as WDR5 represent an ... contribute significantly in precision medicine for cancer patients. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: