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

331
by Super User, 8 months ago
0 0
The Peruvian Amazon is a dangerous place when you're small. So the young Inga tree hires ants as bodyguards to protect its vulnerable leaves. Their pay: delicious nectar served up in tiny ant-sized dishes. But will the ants keep up their end of the bargain?

SUBSCRIBE to Deep Look! http://goo.gl/8NwXqt

DEEP LOOK is a ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Get a new perspective on our place in the universe. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.

* NEW VIDEOS EVERY OTHER TUESDAY! *

For some, ants are welcome guests. In the Amazon rainforest of Peru, a type of tree called the Inga actively encourages ants to stick around.

The tree, which is related to plants that produce beans and other legumes, grows tiny structures near the base of its leaves, called nectaries, that secrete a sugary fluid to feed to the ants. In turn, the ants serve as bodyguards, protecting the Inga and its nectaries from invading herbivores.

“Plants have all kinds of defenses, but because Inga leaves are not as toxic as many other plants,” says Suzanne Koptur, a professor of biology at Florida International University, “they’re good food for herbivores of all sizes and shapes, from big mammals like sloths and monkeys to little invertebrates like caterpillars.“

The rainforest is especially dangerous for young trees. The branches and leaves of mature trees merge together high in the air forming a canopy. Young trees on the forest floor struggle to get enough light. Young trees also have fewer leaves, and losing even a few to herbivores can threaten their survival.

They may be small, but few species want to tangle with the aggressive and territorial big-headed ants.

"Ants have powers in numbers, especially if they bite and sting," says Koptur.

The ants keep most herbivores, especially hungry caterpillars, away from the young trees. Simply put, the trees provide nectar to the ants in exchange for protection.

--- What is mutualism?

In biology, mutualism refers to a relationship between two organisms that benefits both of parties. Mutualism is one type of symbiotic relationship.


--- What are caterpillars?

Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and caterpillars. Young caterpillars hatch out of eggs, eat, grow and molt. They eventually pupate inside their cocoons and then emerge as winged adults.

--- What is plant nectar?

Nectar is a sugary liquid secreted by plants through structures called nectaries. Nectaries are commonly found in flowers to attract pollinators. Some plants also have extra-floral nectaries located outside of the flowers. To attract animals including ants and predatory wasps that protect the plant from herbivores.

---+ Read the entire article on KQED Science:

https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2016/11/01/the-double-crossing-ants-to-whom-friendship-means-nothing/


---+ For more information:

Interactions Among Inga, Herbivores, Ants, and Insect Visitors to Foliar Nectaries
http://faculty.fiu.edu/~kopturs/pubs/MVbookIngaAnts.pdf

---+ More Great Deep Look episodes:

Winter is Coming For These Argentine Ant Invaders
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boyzWeHdtiI

Where Are the Ants Carrying All Those Leaves?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6oKJ5FGk24

This Vibrating Bumblebee Unlocks a Flower's Hidden Treasure
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6oKJ5FGk24

---+ See some great videos and documentaries from the PBS Digital Studios!

It's Okay to Be Smart: Why Don't Ants Get Stuck In Traffic?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkiuw0HbRq4

Gross Science: The World's Most Expensive Fungus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV4WHFU2Id8

---+ Follow KQED Science:

KQED Science: http://www.kqed.org/science
Tumblr: http://kqedscience.tumblr.com
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kqedscience

---+ About KQED

KQED, an NPR and PBS affiliate based in San Francisco, serves the people of Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. Home to one of the most listened-to public radio station in the nation, one of the highest-rated public television services and an award-winning education program, KQED is also a leader and innovator in interactive media and technology, taking people of all ages on journeys of exploration — exposing them to new people, places and ideas.

Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, which is also supported by HopeLab, the David B. Gold Foundation, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Vadasz Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty...