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:4/18/2017)... SUNNYVALE, Calif. , April 18, 2017  Socionext Inc., a ... prototype of a media edge server, the M820, which features the ... face recognition software provided by Tera Probe, Inc., will be showcased ... and at the NAB show at the Las Vegas ... ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... According to a new market research report "Consumer IAM Market ... Authorization), Service, Authentication Type, Deployment Mode, Vertical, and Region - Global Forecast ... from USD 14.30 Billion in 2017 to USD 31.75 Billion by 2022, ... ... MarketsandMarkets Logo ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... N.Y. , April 11, 2017 ... fingerprints, but researchers at the New York University ... College of Engineering have found that partial similarities ... security systems used in mobile phones and other ... thought. The vulnerability lies in the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... Tampa Bay, Florida (PRWEB) , ... October 11, ... ... Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug designation to SBT-100, its ... antibody (sdAb) for the treatment of osteosarcoma. SBT-100 is able to cross the ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Oct. 10, 2017 International research firm Parks Associates ... speak at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... the residential home security market and how smart safety and security products ... Parks Associates: Smart ... "The residential security market ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... The award-winning American Farmer ... first quarter 2018. American Farmer airs Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With ... with the challenge of how to continue to feed a growing nation. At the ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... technologies, launched its ProxiMeta™ Hi-C metagenome deconvolution product, featuring the first commercially ... cloud-based bioinformatics software to perform Hi-C metagenome deconvolution using their own facilities, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: