Ant and bullhorn Acacia, extrafloral nectary

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Ant and_bullhorn_Acacia, extrafloral_nectary, EL_DP163
© Copyright Dan L. Perlman, 2005-2007

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Bullhorn acacia and ant mutualism: ant feeding at extra-floral nectary, 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. 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. In this image, the worker ant is taking nectar from an extra-floral nectary and Beltian bodies are visible in the background. The plants also produce thorns that the ants hollow out for nests.


title Ant_and_bullhorn_Acacia, extrafloral_nectary, EL_DP163
group Acacia and Pseudomyrmex
common name Acacia, Bullhorn;Ant, Acacia
scientific name Acacia;Pseudomyrmex
taxonomic group Fabaceae;Formicidae
continent North America
country Costa Rica
source Dan L. Perlman
Ecosystems Forests
Forests Tropical dry forest
Nutrient cycles Carbon
Ecological interactions Mutualism
Mutualism Ants and plants
Behavior Territorial
Organisms Animals
Animals Insects
Lessons Mutualisms

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