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Is the Association of Ants with Trees A True Symbiosis?

Nature volume 81, page 23 (01 July 1909) | Download Citation



THE fact has long been known that some species of ants occur in constant association with certain kinds of trees. Thus members of the dolichoderid genus Azteca are often found inhabiting the interior of the stems of Cecropia peltata, and among the Pseudomyrmini P. bicolor forms its nests within the spines of the “bull's-horn” acacia. The view has been held by many naturalists, amongst others by Fritz Müller and Bates, that in these cases the benefit is mutual, the tree affording both shelter and sustenance to its occupants, and receiving in return protection from the attacks of the formidable leaf-cutting ants of the genus Atta and of other enemies. Doubts on this point have been expressed by several authorities, among them by Dr. David Sharp, in whose opinion “there is reason to suppose that a critical view of the subject will not support the idea of the association being of supreme importance to the trees.”

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