Ants, Crops, and History

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Science  25 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5385, pp. 1974-1975
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5385.1974

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Humans pride themselves on their agricultural prowess, but some ants were ahead by about 50 million years. These ants are farmers of a specialized kind: They cultivate in their nests fungi that provide them with nutrients. In his Perspective, Diamond discusses results reported in the same issue by Mueller et al., who screened a large variety of ant-cultivated fungi and sequenced the genes of several. The new data permit an insightful comparison of how humans and ants tend their respective gardens.