Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ants farm root aphid clones in subterranean rooms

02.07.2012
The yellow meadow ant, Lasius flavus, farms root aphids for sugar (honeydew) and nitrogen (protein).

In turn these species of aphids have developed distinctive traits never found in free living species such as the 'trophobiotic organ' to hold honey dew for the ants. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology shows that over half of ant mounds contained only one of the three most common species of aphid, and two thirds of these has a single aphid clone. Even in mounds which contained more than one species of aphid 95% of the aphid chambers contained individuals of a single clone.


The yellow meadow ant, Lasius flavus, farms root aphids for sugar (honeydew) and nitrogen (protein). Credit: Aniek Ivens

Aphid farming by ants is considered to be mutualistic. The ants cultivate and protect the aphids which in turn provide food for the ants. In farming mutualism, monocultures may reduce competition and are perhaps the result of husbandry (caused by the ants selecting the best aphids for their needs).

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University of Groningen and Rockefeller University used DNA microsatellite analysis to look at the genetic similarity of the three most common species of root aphids (Geoica utricularia, Tetraneura ulmi, and Forda marginata) within L. flavus nests, soil samples within nests, and single aphid chambers.

Results indicated that while there was considerable aphid diversity within the 7 km test site at all sampling levels (ant mound, soil sample and chamber), monocultures occurred more frequently than expected. 52% of mounds and 99% of aphid chambers contained a single species and 60% of these contained a single clone. When multiple species or clones existed in the same mound they were kept separated.

Aniek Ivens, who led this research, explained, "Although two years later most ant mounds seemed to contain the same clones, two mounds had gained new clones of their species. It is possible that either these aphids have been brought in or that they were previously at a very low level in the mound and missed during an earlier survey."

The combination of underground nesting, aphid clones, and very low gene flow between aphid populations has allowed L. flavus to evolve an unusual form of symbiosis. Miss Ivens continued, "In a parallel with human farming methods this most likely gives colonies the possibility to actively manage the diversity and abundance of their livestock - allowing maximal honeydew yield from mature aphids that are kept under optimal conditions of phloem feeding and ant care. Ants also secure dietary protein by eating the excess of young aphids, and replacement of their honeydew-producing livestock when adult aphids become less productive."

1. Ants farm subterranean aphids mostly in clone groups: an example of prudent husbandry for carbohydrates and proteins?
Aniek BF Ivens, Daniel JC Kronauer, Ido Pen, Franz J Weissing and Jacobus J Boomsma

BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press)

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

2. BMC Evolutionary Biology is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on all aspects of molecular and non-molecular evolution of all organisms, as well as phylogenetics and palaeontology.

3. BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

Hilary Glover | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.biomedcentral.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
15.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

nachricht How the gut ‘talks’ to brown fat
16.11.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland

15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

When electric fields make spins swirl

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Discovery of a cool super-Earth

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>