Ant collecting nectar

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

Pseudomyrmex ant feeding at extra-floral nectary of a bullhorn acacia, Costa Rica. In this image, the worker ant is taking nectar from an extra-floral nectary and protein-rich Beltian bodies are visible in the background. The plants also produce thorns that the ants hollow out 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.