Ant and acacia relationship

Acacia Tree Ants

ant and acacia relationship

This month's mutualism is the relationship between the whistling-thorn Acacia drepanolobium and its body guard ants which protect it from the. – The relationship between the Acacia tree and ants is truly remarkable and highly beneficial to both parties. The tree. The acacia ant (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) is a species of ant of the genus Pseudomyrmex. The symbiotic relationship begins when a newly mated queen gets attracted by the odour from the tree and starts nesting inside the large hollow .

Andrews, United Kingdom, and G.

Ant and Acacia Tree relationship by Alexis Arvizu on Prezi

Stone from the Oxford University, this relationship is one of the best examples of mutualism. Before I proceed, let me tell you what is mutualism. When 2 different species of organisms exist in a relationship, in which they derive benefits from each other; such a relationship is called mutualism. How do the Ants Benefit Every living organism has 2 essentials: Food Shelter The acacia tree provides both the essentials to the ants.

Consider the following points, for a better understanding: Shelter The species of acacia mentioned above have big thorns, and they form the perfect dwelling place for ants.

Relationship Between Acacia Tree and Ants

The ants hollow out the thorns and thrive in them. Such a shelter is also called domatia. As they live in the thorns, the ants are protected from difficult climatic conditions. Food The acacia gives the necessary nourishment to the ants which live on it, as it provides them with: Beltian Bodies The Beltian bodies are red in color, and are found on the tips of the leaflets of acacia.

The Beltian bodies are a great source of nutrients as they are rich in: Proteins Lipids It is believed that the Beltian bodies were developed as a result of the relationship between the ants and the acacia tree, which implies that the tree produces the nutrient-rich bodies only to feed the ants. Nectar Nectaries are found towards the base of the petioles of the acacia tree.

The ants feed on the sweet carbohydrate-rich nectar secreted by the nectaries, and gain the energy that they require to sustain their lives.

ant and acacia relationship

How is the Acacia Tree Benefited In return for the food and shelter that the acacia provides, the ants protect it. This can be studied in three parts: Protection Against Insects The ants do not harm the acacia tree, but there are several insects which might harm wither the leaves, rot the flowers, etc.

The other lure for the ants are nectaries; these glands have a little depression that fills with tree sap, a good source of sugar and water, something which should not be ignored in a tropical seasonal forest during the dry season.

Here is another view of a nectary. To fulfill the protein needs of the ants, the tree also provides protein-rich Beltian Bodies, particularly on the tips of newly developed leaves. These bodies serve no function for the plant, but they do help complete the nutritional needs of the ants which also derive nutrition from insects that they kill on the acacia. Some recent studies from Africa where the trees don't provide the Beltian bodies show an interesting effect. If the trees are fenced off to prevent large mammals from grazing on themthen there is less damage to the plants.

Under these conditions, the plants cut back on the amount of sugar they provide to the ants, whose services are not as important without the herbivory occurring.

Deprived of this sugar source the ants turn to another - they allow sap-sucking insects such as aphids or scale insects to attach to the plant and then get sugar exuding from the sap-suckers This ant-aphid symbiosis is common in the ant world - many species of ants do this, and they protect the aphids or scale insects from predators in return.

ant and acacia relationship

Thus, the plant goes from having the ants as an ally to having the ant as an enemy. Ironically, it was this type of ant that was first co-opted by the acacias when they started producing nectaries and thus inducing the ants to abandon their sap-sucking proxies and go to work full-time for the tree.

The classic line is that the ants drive away all insects and other invertebrates from the Acacia. They also deter vertebrate herbivores from chewing on the leaves, and even cut away epihytic plants.

In some cases they may come down from the Acacia tree and remove or kill by girdling competing vegetation in the immediate vicinity. Our observations in Costa Rica showed that the ants don't exclude all insects and other animals from the Acacia. To the left, a spider is spinning its web adjacent to an inhabited thorn. This beetle was crawling around on an Acacia leaf, of course it is possible that it would be run off or killed in short order.

ant and acacia relationship

This praying mantis was doing its preying on an Acacia, apparently with little interference from the ants. Of course, having a preying mantis on the plant is good from the Acacia's point of view, but how do the ants know which insects to allow and which to drive off?

ant and acacia relationship

Perhaps there is a questionnaire Vertebrates sometimes make their homes in Acacia trees as well. Bird nests in Acacias are not bothered by many of the traditional nest predators snakesbut how the birds themselves avoid the ants isn't clear. This wasp nest isn't in an Acacia but the tree does have thorns ; the thorns provide some protection against vertebrate predators who would love to get at the honey and protein-rich grubs inside - and who would be willing to take a few stings along the way.

ant and acacia relationship