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Myrmecodia: Symbiosis with ants

An incredible diversity of plants and animals is harboured in tropical rainforests. By far the group richest in species are the insects. Untold species of ants are found here, most of them living on trees. Ants need somewhere to breed their larvae, therefore in the canopy competition for nesting sites is severe. Some plants voluntarily offer them a home, and a few even give them room and board.

Myrmecodia is one of these so-called “ant plants”. You may notice a tuberous thickening at the base of its stems. It contains a labyrinthine system of passages and chambers that in the wild are colonized by ants. The ants carry in organic matter and leave their excrement behind, exactly the nutrient-rich matter that gives Myrmecodia a competitive edge over other epiphytes. Living as they do on trees, epiphytes must find innovative ways to get the nutrients they need. The relationship between Myrmecodia and its tenants is a classic example of symbiosis, a cooperation which benefits both partners.

Audio file download
Myrmecodia: Symbiosis with ants (MP3, 523 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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