Even if we were inclined to believe that we were the first plant farmers in the world, we have apparently forgotten about all the insects which used plants as their meals. These tiny insects namely ants were extended to known to develop all sorts of bridges by using their bodies, enriching the gardens’ fungus. A recent study has proved that ants have been cultivating plants for millions of years.
- Chomicki has proved that ants farm only particular species of plants.
- In return, the plant offers the ants the perfect home.
Guillaume Chomicki, an evolutionary biologist, and a post-doc at the University of Munich, Germany, has revealed that in Fiji, high up in the trees, there was an ants’ specialized community which has engaged in cultivating six different species of plants.
The specialist has claimed that the farming behavior of ants could date back approximately three million years back. Judging by the figures provided by Statistics, humans have started practicing farming almost 23,000 years ago.
The plants which were cultivated by ants were part of the Squamellaria family, also called the “ant-plants.” This distinct species of plants occurs on trees, thus their characteristic being known as epiphytic. Chomicki published his study back on November 21.
He has described the behavior of another species of ants known as Philidris nagasau, who proved to play a primary role in the life of ant-plants. Before the fruit of Squamellaria reaches the ripe state, insects start collecting the seeds by penetrating into the wall of the fruit. The nest step of the harvesting process shows how those little insects carry the seeds, spreading them away when they eventually stuck them in the bark of the tree. In this way, the plant is bound to sprout again.
After the seeds manage to develop reaching an inch high, they are prone to develop the domatium or “ant-house” which is a soft structure located between the stem and the roots. As soon as this cavity evolves to be spacious enough, ants get inside it and deprive themselves of their waste. The feces will be used as fertilizer by the plant.
This relationship between the plant and the ant represents a two-sided beneficial bond. The domatium reaches to be the house of ants, protecting them. When it reaches about 8 to 16 inches across, this represents the best environment for the little creature which might use a shelter then and now.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia