Bullhorn acacia thorn

Title Info
Common name Acacia, Bullhorn; Ant, Acacia
Scientific name Acacia; Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus
Taxonomic group Fabaceae; Formicidae
Source Dan L. Perlman
Ecosystems Forests
Forests Tropical dry forest
Ecological interactions Mutualism
Mutualism Ants and plants
Behavior Territorial; Nesting
Organisms Animals
Animals Insects
Lessons Mutualisms
Date June 1985 - August 1985
Location Costa Rica,North America

Bullhorn acacia thorn and extra-floral nectary, home and food for Pseudomyrmex ants, Costa Rica. The ants hollow out the thorns, such as the one seen here, for nests.

This is one of the most famous mutualisms of all, the relationship between Pseudomyrmex ants and Acacia trees. The ants defend these small trees against herbivorous insects and vertebrates. The ants also chew away and sting any encroaching plants, clearing an area that may be up to 4 yd (4 m) in radius. In return, the plants give the ants food, such as the yellow Beltian bodies seen here, and nectar from extra-floral nectaries. The Beltian bodies contain proteins and lipids and are produced on the youngest and most delicate leaves. The plants also produce thorns that the ants hollow out for nests.