Dirt Box Ants

Two days on, the dirt box ants have put most of the soil where they want it and have created a wonderful array of tunnels, chambers, trash heaps and new fungus gardens. They are adapting their deep urge to dig within the confines of a few plastic boxes and a couple of plastic tubes - and seem very happy. When offered fresh rose leaves, they immediately set about cutting them into little semi-circles before carting them off to the fungus gardens (see image). There, the leaves are cut into yet smaller semi circles, dosed with a bit of anal secrection, chewed a bit and applied to the ever growing mass of fungal hyphae.

The details of this process are only now being worked out. Michael Poulson, Cameron Currie and the team at the Currie lab are discovering that the ants are manipulating various kinds of bacteria to aid the fungus and increase its nutritional value in a complex 4 (or more) way symbiosis.

1 comment:

xl said...

Sounds as if you're getting lots of good stuff on the ant's little ecosystem.

Be mindful of the fungus, just in case.