Monday, August 02, 2004

Plant nectar reward enhances ants aggressiveness

This meeting abstract announces an interesting find - ants that feed on plant nectar have a stronger desire for meat!

Plant nectar not only feeds ants, it makes them better bodyguards! Somehow they are more likely to attack other insects, likely, insect herbivores munching on the plant!

Ness et al studied the behaviour of four species of ants that visit the extrafloral nectaries of a barrel cactus plant, Ferocactus wislizeni. Sugar and meat baits were placed at the base of barrel cactus plants and at the base of plants without extrafloral nectaries. Ants favoured meat when foraging at the catcus - in all four species tested.

So the plant's reward for the attendant bodyguard also efffectively increases their appetite for meat, making them better bodyguards - pretty neat system! So that's an incentive for ant bodyguards not to desert their post after being fed sugar. This shoud read "Ants in servitude fed to sugar highs to induce meat-attacking rampages".

Originally seen at the Science blog.

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