Plant-Animal Interactions

Ants farming plants

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Science  25 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6315, pp. 1017-1018
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6315.1017-d

Mutualistic interactions between ants and plants are relatively common, most often occurring in plants that produce specific structures for ant occupation. A relationship that more closely approximates farming occurs between ants and fungi, in which ants actively create growing conditions for and propagate the fungal partner. Chomicki and Renner now describe a system in Fiji in which ants in the genus Philidris conduct such gardening activities in six different species of epiphytic plants, often simultaneously. Specifically, they not only manage growing conditions but also disperse and plant seeds and pollinate flowers. This more intensive management helps to ensure reestablishment of plants that provide fruits and resources to the ants and that might otherwise be harder to come by.

Nat. Plants 10.1038/nplants.2016.181 (2016).

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