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|© Copyright Dan L. Perlman, 2005-2007|
|Bullhorn acacia and ant mutualism: ant-cleared area around tree, Costa Rica. This is one of the most famous mutualisms of all, the Pseudomyrmex ant and Acacia tree mutualism. The ants defend these small trees against herbivorous insects and vertebrates. The ants also chew away and sting any encroaching plants, clearing an area that may be up to 4 yd (4 m)in radius, as can be seen in this image. In return, the plants give the ants food, including protein- and lipid-filled yellow Beltian bodies, and nectar from extra-floral nectaries. The Beltian bodies are produced on the youngest and most delicate leaves. The plants also produce thorns that the ants hollow out for nests.|
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Updated: 2016-09-29 12:17:18 gmt
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