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Systematic Botany: Ant-plant symbioses

Many ant species live in often highly specific symbiotic relationships with plants from which both partners benefit. LMU researchers now reveal that such selective interactions can break down over the course of evolution.


Excerpt from LMU press release of March 27, 2017:

Adapting to changes in partner abundance

In the higher reaches of the trees in tropical forests nutrients are hard to come by. Many epiphytic plants solve this problem by forming symbiotic relationships with ants, that is, relationships that involve the close and long-term living together of two species. The plants provide their insect partners with shelter and a supply of nectar, while the ants return the favor by serving as a source of fertilizer – in the form of fecal matter. An understanding of how these symbioses originate, evolve, and break down yields insights into the ecological and evolutionary factors that underlie biotic adaptation. LMU biologists Professor Susanne Renner and Dr. Guillaume Chomicki have addressed the question under which conditions ant/plant relationships dissolve rather than persist and evolve further. Their findings appear in the journal PNAS. PNAS 2017

LMU press release