This Tree Enslaves Ants

Pic: Kurt Stuber (CC)

Pic: Kurt Stuber (CC)

Poor little junkie ants. The first taste is free, then you gotta pay.

Via Neatorama:

The Central American acacia tree and the ant Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus live in a symbiotic relationship. The tree provides sweet nectar for the ants, and the ants protect the tree from weeds and animals. But we now know that the relationship is rather one-sided, as the tree not only causes the ants to become addicted to its nectar, but also damages the ants to make them unable to digest any other food! Martin Heil of Cinvestav Unidad Irapuato in Mexico studied the ants, and found that they are born with the ability to digest a variety of sugars, but then lose their invertase, an enzyme that breaks down sugars.

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11 Comments on "This Tree Enslaves Ants"

  1. Rhoid Rager | Nov 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm |

    Well, hmph. I never woulda pegged Goldman Sachs as a student of biomimicry.

  2. Jonas Planck | Nov 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

    Spoilers for the novel Amazon… The Tree did it!

  3. InfvoCuernos | Nov 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm |

    Acacias seem to be big on the symbiotic thing. I have also heard of a type of grub that lives in the roots of the mesquite bush of the southwest. I wonder if they are addicts too.

    • African acacias kill antelopes if they over-feed on a single tree. The tree that’s under attack emits ethylene as a signal to other acacias over 100 feet away, and the acacias increase their production of poisonous tannins.

      The Southeast Asian Acacia confusa has certainly presented a symbiotic relationship to me:)

  4. tibby trillz | Nov 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

    alot of species of acacia contain dmt

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