Two years ago, 8-year-old Hugo Deans, the son of a Penn State entomology professor, noticed what he thought were seeds around an ant nest under tree trunks in his backyard. However, his father, Andrew Deans, knew immediately what it was: acorns, or the growth of plants that are driven by insects.
What he didn’t immediately realize was that these were actually wasps, so he wondered: What are the goblins doing around the anthill?
Further investigations revealed that tannins were part of a complex relationship between ants, wasps, and oak trees: wasps use oak trees as a medium to obtain protection from ants for their young.
Specifically, this work Posted in american naturalist, Hugo’s observation as a phytoplankton describes the dispersal of seeds by ants, in which wasps, oaks, and ants form a complex, multi-tiered system that works for the benefit of wasp larvae.
A more complex kind of bitter
According to Andrew Deans, who is also director of the Frost Museum of Insects in Pennsylvania, many interactions between plants and insects have long been well documented.
“In Myrmecochory, the ants get very little nutrition when they eat the iliosomes, and the plants get their seeds to sprout into a place free of enemies,” Professor Deans explained in a press release. “This phenomenon was first documented over 100 years ago and is routinely taught to biology students as an example of the interaction between plants and insects,” he added.
However, the team’s new research revealed a much more complex species of marmochori, combining the interaction of wasp and oak gall with that of food-attached ants.
“First, we noticed that although these balls usually had a fleshy, pale pink ‘cap’, the ants near the anthill did not have these caps, indicating that the ants had eaten them,” the deans said.
“Ultimately, this led us to discover that wasp wasps manipulate oak trees to produce balls, then go a step further and manipulate the ants to retrieve the moths and return them to their nests, where wasp larvae can be protected from predators by gills or other benefits. This interaction is multi-layered. Mind-boggling, it’s too complicated to believe.”
The team confirmed this by finding the orcs stored safely in ant nests after they had eaten the eyelid, and by photographing the ants’ behavior around the ants.
Experiments have shown that ants are equally attracted to caps and elliosomes, and they treat mites and seeds in the same way, but reject ants without a cap. Chemical analysis of the caps reveals that they are full of fatty acids similar to those found in dead insects that make up the bulk of an ant’s diet.
“Ants are scavengers who go out looking for whatever is suitable to bring them back to their colony, so it is no coincidence that both gall caps and lysosomes contain fatty acids typical of dead insects,” said John Tucker, a professor of entomology at the University of California. Penn State and co-author of the paper.
It is still not clear how this system emerged and which part evolved first. But the team thinks it was this interaction between the acorns and the ants that gave rise to vegetative plants such as bloody roots. These species make up only a small part of the plant kingdom, while oak beams are so abundant that they were once used as animal feed.
Professor Robert J.
“The ants could have been accustomed to capturing the cap-covered sprite for a long time, and then when the spring wildflowers started producing seeds that happened to have an edible attachment, the ants were already ready to pick up things with their gallbladder cap stearic acid.”
Edited by Felipe Espinosa Wang.
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