1 Tahrcountry Musings: Ant tree-guards that Deter the Elephants

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ant tree-guards that Deter the Elephants

The latest issue of journal Current Biology has a very fascinating paper on how ants protect   Acacia drepanolobium from marauding elephants.
Groups of ants that weigh about only five milligrams swarms up the trunk of much more massive elephants and stop them in their tracks. Elephants freely feed on other species of trees that do not harbour ants.
The scientists’ removed the ants from some trees and transferred them to one of the elephants' favourite tree foods, a different Acacia species called Acacia mellifera. When other tree species had ants on them, the elephants avoided those trees also.
Elephants appeared to perceive the presence of tree ants by their smell. The scientists say this raised the possibility of using ant odours on crops to deter elephants. 

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