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Old 09-02-2010, 03:17 PM   #1
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Default Defensive Plant-Ants Stabilize Megaherbivore-Driven Landscape Change in an African Savanna

Elephants are afraid of Ants.... or at least don't like eating them as one study has found. There is a video that can't stop, or pause on the page. It's basically a summary of the entire study and fun to watch.

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Tree cover in savanna ecosystems is usually regarded as unstable, varying with rainfall, fire, and herbivory [1,2,3,4]. In sub-Saharan Africa, elephants (Loxodonta africana) suppress tree cover, thereby maintaining landscape heterogeneity by promoting tree-grass coexistence. In the absence of elephants, tree encroachment may convert savannas into closed-canopy woodlands [5,6]; when elephants increase in abundance, intensified browsing pressure can transform savannas into open grasslands [5,6,7,8]. We show that symbiotic ants stabilize tree cover across landscapes in Kenya by protecting a dominant tree from elephants. In feeding trials, elephants avoided plants with ants and did not distinguish between a myrmecophyte (the whistling-thorn tree [Acacia drepanolobium]) from which ants had been removed and a highly palatable, nonmyrmecophytic congener. In field experiments, elephants inflicted severe damage on whistling-thorn trees from which ants had been removed. Across two properties on which elephants increased between 2003 and 2008, cover of whistling-thorn did not change significantly inside versus outside large-scale elephant exclusion fences; over the same period of time, cover of nonmyrmecophytes differed profoundly inside versus outside exclusion fences. These results highlight the powerful role that symbioses and plant defense play in driving tree growth and survival in savannas, ecosystems of global economic and ecological importance.
We have a few plants like this in the US but I think they're all in the south west and continue on through the tropics. We don't have as many giant herbivores in the US so it's not big of an issue for our plants to be ant friendly. North east forest land tends to be rich in plants that spread their seeds by them however, but this isn't a good defense against deer, tragically.
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:07 AM   #2
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Default Ants Take on Goliath Role in Protecting Trees in the Savanna from Elephants

Ants Take on Goliath Role in Protecting Trees in the Savanna from Elephants
ScienceDaily
Sep. 2, 2010

Ants take on Goliath role in protecting trees in the savanna from elephants
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Quote:
Ants are not out of their weight class when defending trees from the appetite of nature's heavyweight, the African elephant, a new University of Florida study finds.

Columns of angered ants will crawl up into elephant trunks to repel the ravenous beasts from devouring tree cover throughout drought-plagued East African savannas, playing a potentially important role in regulating carbon sequestration...
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Old 10-11-2010, 08:41 AM   #3
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Default The Joy of Sets: For Ants and Trees, Multiple Partners Are a Boon

The Joy of Sets: For Ants and Trees, Multiple Partners Are a Boon
ScienceDaily
Sep. 26, 2010

The joy of sets: For ants and trees, multiple partners are a boon
excerpt from above:
Quote:
According to Palmer, many prior studies of cooperation in nature, or mutualism, have focused on the "cheater problem": How can cooperation persist when both sides have an incentive to reap benefits without contributing to the common good? Ecological studies tend to be short-term, with species labeled as "cooperators" or "freeloaders," depending on cost-benefit ratios calculated over just a few years.

Palmer and his team took a different approach, looking at a common African tree and its relationships with four specialized ant partners over the tree's lifetime.

The surprising finding was...
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