A recent study by Colorado State University published in the Biotropica journal looked at the chemical signals involved in the symbiotic relationship between one ant species and its favourite host tree.
Lead author of the report, Dr. Tiffany Weir, said: “we found that ants distinguish between their host trees and encroaching species through recognition of the plant’s surface waxes.”
Implementing their research in the Tambopata National Reserve, an important area of the Peruvian Amazon, the researchers utilised an innovative set of experiments to discover the chemical signals responded to by the ants.
The Pseudomyrmex triplarinus ant lives in tropical areas of South America and is well know for its symbiotic relationship with the tree Triplaris americana. Living within hollow channels inside the tree, they receive shelter in return for defending the plant against competitors and predators. The ants will attack and sting any animal that comes close to the tree they live in and also prune completing plants nearby.
The worker ants measure between 10mm and 14mm in length and slightly less in width. Queens are larger, their heads alone measuring between 14mmm and 16mm. Their legs are relatively long compared to other ants in their genus.