What is the symbiotic relationship between acacia tree and ants

Relationship provides nutrients, housing, protection : Bullhorn Wattle - AskNature

what is the symbiotic relationship between acacia tree and ants

Several species of acacia like Acacia cornigera, Acacia collinsii, and Acacia drepanolobium have a symbiotic relationship with the ants (like Pseudomyrmex. The acacia ant (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) is a species of ant of the genus Pseudomyrmex. These arboreal, wasp-like ants have an orange-brown body around 3 mm in length and very large eyes. The acacia ant is best known and named for living in symbiosis with the The symbiotic relationship begins when a newly mated queen gets attracted. Capture, absorb, or filter energyCooperate/compete between different Bull horn acacia and ants have a mutualistic relationship with many facets: The trees also excrete nectar for ant food and have swollen hollow thorns.

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.

what is the symbiotic relationship between acacia tree and ants

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.

Relationship Between Acacia Tree and Ants

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. In addition to this, the ants also eliminate any plants that try to grow on, or near the acacia, hence the acacia does not need to compete for resources. Special Features of the Acacia-Ant Relationship The relationship between the acacia and the ant is characterized by the interesting features mentioned below: Possessiveness of the Ants The acacia and the ants share such a close bond that, as time goes by, the ants become very possessive about the tree on which they dwell.

They also attack other species of ants which try to occupy the tree. Distinct groups of ants usually compete for the acacia.

Manipulation by the Acacia The ants attack all the insects which try to feed on the acacia, but it does not harm the pollinators. According to Wilmer and Stone, the young blossoms of the acacia make a repellent which does not allow the ants to patrol on them.

what is the symbiotic relationship between acacia tree and ants

It is believed that this repellent is ineffective once the pollination is over, and thus the ants can move freely on the flowers after the pollination is complete. There are many examples of symbiosis in nature, but very few are as interesting as the relationship between acacia tree and ants. The next time you see ants on an acacia, you better stay away from the tree, else you might end up being a victim of the ant-attack! The plant provides the ants with nest sites, carbohydrates and protein in return for defense by the ants.

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.

what is the symbiotic relationship between acacia tree and ants

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.

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.

what is the symbiotic relationship between acacia tree and ants

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.

what is the symbiotic relationship between acacia tree and ants

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.

biosystems: Mutualism Relationship: 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. 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.