Acacia tree and ants relationship with plants

Acacia Ants - Marietta College

acacia tree and ants relationship with plants – The relationship between the Acacia tree Acacia hindsii plants colonized by mutualistic (left) or parasitic ants (right). Bull horn acacias provide nutrients and housing for acacia ants in return for “ Some ant-plant partnerships are so strong that the ants live their. We confirm the existence of two separate lineages of obligate acacia ants that Here we examine the evolutionary history of a classic ant/plant mutualism: the.

The Acacia Tree Acacia trees are part of a large genus - there are thousands of species worldwide, or, more accurately, in the southern hemisphere and in the tropical parts of the northern hemisphere.

A member of the bean family, they are also related to locust trees and the tamarind tree. The bacteria obtain nitrogen from the air and convert it into an organic form which is shared with the tree. The tree uses the nitrogen to make amino acids and thus proteins.

Presence of the bacteria allow the Acacia to grow better on soils with little nitrogen. 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.

Relationship Between Acacia Tree and Ants

Acacias also bear formidable thorns to deter mammalian predators. 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.

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.

Relationship Between Acacia Tree and Ants

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. To fulfill the protein needs of the ants, the tree also provides protein-rich Beltian Bodies, particularly on the tips of newly developed leaves.

acacia tree and ants relationship with plants

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.

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.

acacia tree and ants relationship with plants

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.

acacia tree and ants relationship with plants

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. How is the Acacia Tree Benefited In return for the food and shelter that the acacia provides, the ants protect it.

This can be studied in three parts: Protection Against Insects The ants do not harm the acacia tree, but there are several insects which might harm wither the leaves, rot the flowers, etc.

The ants ward off all other insects which try to occupy the acacia, thus protecting the tree from any damage. Defense Against Herbivores Apart from the insects, the acacia also faces a threat from herbivores. The ants protect the tree from herbivores too. When the herbivores try to eat the leaves of the acacia, they cause the branches of the tree to move, this acts as a signal to the ants living in the domatia.

acacia tree and ants relationship with plants

The ants quickly reach the herbivore who is trying consume the leaves, and start stinging it. After some resistance, the herbivore gives up, and leaves the tree alone.