Amazonian ants Allomerus octoarticulatus act as bodyguards, defending the Cordia nodosa plant against herbivores—such as grasshoppers—in a mutualistic relationship. A recent study pinpoints a genetic variation among A. octoarticulatus that makes some of the ants better bodyguards: a certain foraging gene makes the ants better at discovering the grasshoppers attempting to feed on the plant. Researchers studied two ant colonies, one of which received a treatment modifying the “bodyguard-foraging gene.” Their results showed less herbivore damage on the plant and more ant attacks on grasshoppers in the treated colony. Study authors say these findings suggest a molecular basis for ant protection of plants in this classic plant-animal mutualism example.
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Megan Frederickson, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, ON, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Original paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on September 13, 2017.