Nav: Home

Guardian ants: How far does the protection of a plant-ant species to its specific host go?

December 02, 2015

Seemingly helpless against their much more lively natural enemies, plants have actually come up with a wide range of defences. In the present research, published in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research, Dr. Adriana Sanchez, Universidad del Rosario, Colombia, and Edwin Bellota, Texas A&M University, USA, focus on the mutualistic relationship developed between a specific Neotropical knotweed and an ant species. During a series of ant-exclusion experiments the scientists observed and subsequently reported an aggressive and highly protective behaviour.

In order to assess the extent of protection these plant-ants provide their exclusive host with, the researchers compared the percentage of herbivory between control plants and experimental ones, which had their resident ants removed. The unambiguous results showed a 15-fold increase in the herbivory in the latter group, which kept on growing even further as the time progressed.

Normally, the studied ants patrol their hosts during both day and night at temperatures sometimes as low as 13C. Every time they found a herbivore, they were seen to attack it aggressively by biting and stinging.

"When an ant encountered a caterpillar, a worker approached and detected it with its antennae, and then recruited more workers. Typically more than 10 workers were recruited around the intruder in less than five minutes," shared their observations the researchers. "Several workers harassed the herbivore by stinging or biting, until it dropped off the plant. The caterpillars usually hung by a silk thread and attempted to move back onto the plant. However, individuals of Pseudomyrmex continued to chase them until they dropped again. This cycle was repeated several times."

While patrolling, they were noticed to remove any found debris from the top of the leaves. When they failed to find any signs of mosses, fungi or lichens on the sampled saplings, the scientists suggested that the ants not only protect their host from herbivores, but also from various disease-causing agents.

Plant vitality, growth and reproduction are seriously threatened by herbivores such as, in the case of the hereby studied knotweed, Triplaris americana, caterpillars and grasshoppers. Fighting for their life, plants use structural defenses, toxins, digestibility-reducing compounds, or mutualistic relationship with the enemies of their herbivores.

The herein researched Neotropical plant have found its way of survival through becoming the only host to the ant species Pseudomyrmex dendroicus, characterised with remarkable eyes, light brown body and potent venom, injected through a well-developed sting. In its turn, the knotweed shelters their entire colony in its hollow stems while another symbiont, scale insects, feeds them with the sugary sticky liquid it secrets on digesting plant sap.
-end-
Original source:

Sanchez A, Bellota E (2015) Protection against herbivory in the mutualism between Pseudomyrmex dendroicus (Formicidae) and Triplaris americana(Polygonaceae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 46: 71-83. doi: 10.3897/JHR.46.5518.

Pensoft Publishers

Related Ants Articles:

Using seaweed to kill invasive ants
Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have developed an inexpensive, biodegradable, seaweed-based ant bait that can help homeowners and farmers control invasive Argentine ant populations.
Ants rescue their injured
Ants operate a unique rescue system: when an insect is injured during a fight, it calls for help.
Wasps, ants, and Ani DiFranco
A University of California, Riverside graduate student has discovered several news species of wasps, including one that she named after musician Ani DiFranco.
Ants find their way even while traveling backward
Some of us struggle to find our way back home while walking from an unfamiliar location in the usual, forward direction.
Stabilizing evolutionary forces keep ants strong
Researchers are finding evidence of natural selection that maintains the status quo among ant populations.
Ants and epiphytes: A longstanding relationship
The first farmers on the Fijian archipelago were ants: For millions of years, an ant species on the islands has nurtured epiphytes, which provide them with nesting sites.
Carpenter ants: When social instructions may be dangerous
Why do social beings sometimes put their own common sense aside to follow the lead of others, even though by doing so they could be brought to death's door?
Are red imported fire ants all bad?
Red imported fire ants have earned a justifiably bad rap across the south and most Texans would be hard put to name a single redeeming quality the ants have.
Ants have dual navigation systems
Ants visually track the motion of objects as they move through their environment in order to determine the distance they have traveled, a new study reports.
Reversing ants navigate successfully despite going backwards
Desert ants are remarkable navigators, but how do they locate home when they have to shift into reverse when dragging a heavy load?

Related Ants Reading:

National Geographic Readers: Ants
by Melissa Stewart (Author)

Ants are everywhere. They creep, they crawl, they climb, and they fall. But they get up and they keep on working. Ants come in all different shapes, different sizes, and different colors. And they do a lot of different jobs. These hard-working little creatures thrive wherever they go, making whatever adaptations necessary in their ever-changing world. National Geographic supports K-12 educators with ELA Common Core Resources.
Visit www.natgeoed.org/commoncore for more information. View Details


The Ants
by Bert Holldobler (Author), Edward O. Wilson (Author)

View a collection of videos on Professor Wilson entitled "On the Relation of Science and the Humanities"

This landmark work, the distillation of a lifetime of research by the world's leading myrmecologists, is a thoroughgoing survey of one of the largest and most diverse groups of animals on the planet. Hölldobler and Wilson review in exhaustive detail virtually all topics in the anatomy, physiology, social organization, ecology, and natural history of the ants. In large format, with almost a thousand line drawings, photographs, and paintings, it is one of the most visually rich and... View Details


The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct
by Bert Hölldobler (Author), Edward O. Wilson (Author)

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of The Ants comes this dynamic and visually spectacular portrait of Earth's ultimate superorganism.

The Leafcutter Ants is the most detailed and authoritative description of any ant species ever produced. With a text suitable for both a lay and a scientific audience, the book provides an unforgettable tour of Earth's most evolved animal societies. Each colony of leafcutters contains as many as five million workers, all the daughters of a single queen that can live over a decade. A gigantic nest can stretch thirty... View Details


The Life and Times of the Ant
by Charles Micucci (Author)

Not mighty in size, but mighty in resourcefulness and industry, the ant has crawled the earth since prehistoric times. It has dwelt in rainforest tree trunks and acorns of oak trees, beneath logs, and under sidewalks. It has protected forests by capturing insects, cleared weeds away from acacia trees, and by growing gardens has released important nutrients into the soil. Seed lifters, dirt diggers, social beings, ants have the most advanced brain of all insects! So watch where you step, especially on a warm day: a small but mighty ant may be underfoot. View Details


Hey, Little Ant
by Phillip M. Hoose (Author), Hannah Hoose (Author), Debbie Tilley (Author)

What would you do if the ant you were about to step on looked up and started talking? Would you stop and listen? What if your friends saw you hesitate? That’s what happens in this funny, thought-provoking book. Originally a song by a father-daughter team, this conversation between two creatures, large and small, is bound to inspire important discussions. It might even answer that classic childhood question: To squish or not to squish? View Details


Inside an Ant Colony (Rookie Read-About Science)
by Allan Fowler (Author)

Describes how these social insects live and work together in organized communities that are like bustling cities. View Details


Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants
by Eleanor Spicer Rice (Author), Alex Wild (Author), Rob Dunn (Author)

Did you know that for every human on earth, there are about one million ants? They are among the longest-lived insects—with some ant queens passing the thirty-year mark—as well as some of the strongest. Fans of both the city and countryside alike, ants decompose dead wood, turn over soil (in some places more than earthworms), and even help plant forests by distributing seeds. But while fewer than thirty of the nearly one thousand ant species living in North America are true pests, we cringe when we see them marching across our kitchen floors.

No longer! In this witty, accessible,... View Details


Empire of the Ants
by Bernard Werber (Author)

Here is the stunning international bestseller in the tradition of Watership Down but with a dark, original twist. Unique, daring, and unforgettable, it tells the story of an ordinary family who accidentally threaten the security of a hidden civilization as intelligent as our own--a colony of ants determined to survive at any cost....

Jonathan Wells and his young family have come to the Paris flat at 3, rue des Sybarites through the bequest of his eccentric late uncle Edmond. Inheriting the dusty apartment, the Wells family are left with only one warning: Never go down into... View Details


Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India
by Sujatha Gidla (Author)

A Wall Street Journal Top 10 Nonfiction Book of 2017
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2017
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2017

"Ants Among Elephants is an arresting, affecting and ultimately enlightening memoir. It is quite possibly the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, and heralds the arrival of a formidable new writer." ―The Economist

The stunning true story of an untouchable family who become teachers, and one, a poet and... View Details


Ant Cities (Lets Read and Find Out Books) (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
by Arthur Dorros (Author)

Did you ever wonder where an ant goes when it disappears into an anthill? Underneath the hill, there are miles of tunnels and hundreds of rooms! With simple, easy-to-understand words and colorful illustrations, Arthur Dorros explains the life of a harvester ant for the early reader and even shows readers how to build their own ant farms!

This is a Stage 2 Let's-Read-and-Find-Out, which means the book explores more challenging concepts for children in the primary grades. Let's-Read-And-Find-Out is the winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Science... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Big Five
What are the five biggest global challenges we face right now — and what can we do about them? This hour, TED speakers explore some radical solutions to these enduring problems. Guests include geoengineer Tim Kruger, president of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband, political scientist Ian Bremmer, global data analyst Sarah Menker, and historian Rutger Bregman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#457 Trowel Blazing
This week we look at some of the lesser known historical figures and current public perception of anthropology, archaeology, and other fields that end in "ology". Rebecca Wragg Sykes, an archaeologist, writer, and co-founder of the TrowelBlazers, tells us about the Raising Horizons project and how their team is trying to shine the spotlight on the forgotten historical women of archaeological, geological, and palaeontological science. And Kristina Killgrove, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida and science writer, talks about the public perception of the fields of anthropology and archeology, and how those science are represented -...