Acacia tree and ants relationship

Relationship Between Acacia Tree and Ants

acacia tree and ants relationship

and the acacia is dependent upon the ant similar relationship in lowland areas Leaf of Acacia hindsii, same tree as c. e. Raised petiolar nectary of Acacia. Bull horn acacia and ants have a mutualistic relationship with many of acacia trees have evolved special structures to support acacia ant. The whistling-thorn tree Acacia drepanolobium   employs ant guards to Every month we showcase a relationship between two or more.

Worldwide, Acacia trees are a source of the material known as gum arabic, which is a thickener used in the production of many processed foods such as candies and ice creams. Acacias also bear formidable thorns to deter mammalian predators.

acacia tree and ants relationship

Despite the thorns, herbivores such as giraffes feed routinely on acacias; in fact when giraffes were first brought to The Wilds in the 's I was struck by how quickly they began browsing on the locust trees locusts being a thorn-bearing Acacia relative. One of the more interesting aspects of the Acacia tree is its tendency to form symbiotic, mutualistic relationships with ants.

acacia tree and ants relationship

This happens in both the Americas and in Africa and perhaps in other areas as well. In Costa Rica, the association is usually with ants of the genus Pseudomyrmex. The Ants and the Symbiosis Left: The Acacia tree provides the ants with sugars, protein and a nesting site.

You can see two of those benefits in this picture. The enlarged thorns are hollow - the ants need only chew an entrance hole to gain access to the hollow inside of the thorn, which they can then raise their young in. A colony of ants on a tree may occupy many such thorns.

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.

Acacia Tree Ants

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.

The Double-Crossing Ants to Whom Friendship Means Nothing - Deep Look

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.

Relationship Between Acacia Tree and Ants

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.

acacia tree and ants relationship

The classic line is that the ants drive away all insects and other invertebrates from the Acacia. ScienceStruck Staff Several species of acacia like Acacia cornigera, Acacia collinsii, and Acacia drepanolobium have a symbiotic relationship with the ants like Pseudomyrmex ferruginea which thrive on them.

It is amazing to see how the acacia tree and the ants benefit from each other. Wilmer of the University of St.

Mutualism of the Month: A relationship between a tree and an ant — Feed the data monster

Andrews, United Kingdom, and G. 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. 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.