Monday, August 31, 2015

The Bullhorn Acacia Tree & Ants: A Short Story

As learned earlier, nature is crawling with symbiotic relationships of all forms. Some are extremely apparent, others a bit more hidden. One such relationship is that of the Bullhorn Acadia Tree and a particular species of stinging ants. This is a perfect example of mutualism, in that the tree is made up of large thorns, shaped like those of a bull. The ants living in these thorns hollow them out and utilize them as shelter for the colony. The ants are also able to receive two valuable food sources from the tree: sweet nectar from structures called nectaries and from food nodules known as beltian bodies at the tips of the leaves. In return, the tree receives protection from the ants, as they are very protective of their new found friend. The colony will attack any insect that penetrates the surface and remove any neighboring vegetation from the premises, meaning the Bullhorn Acacia is able to grow twice as large and three times as healthy. 

In this relationship, the tree would be considered the host and the ant the symbiont. 
And they lived happily ever after!

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