Planet Earth

How Acacia Trees Prevent Elephant Attacks: With Armies of Ants

80beatsBy Joseph CalamiaSep 2, 2010 5:13 PM

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From Ed Yong:

It’s a classic David and Goliath story, except there are 90,000 Davids and they all have stings. On the African plains, the whistling-thorn acacia tree protects itself against the mightiest of savannah animals – elephants – by recruiting some of the tiniest – ants. Elephants are strong enough to bulldoze entire trees and you might think that there can be no defence against such brute strength. But an elephant’s large size and tough hide afford little protection from a mass attack by tiny ants. These defenders can bite and sting the thinnest layers of skin, the eyes, and even the inside of the sensitive trunk. Jacob Goheen and Todd Palmer from Kenya’s Mpala Research Centre have found that ants are such a potent deterrent that their presence on a tree is enough to put off an elephant.

Read the rest of this post (with video!) at Not Exactly Rocket Science. Related content: 80beats: Parasite-Infested Zombie Ants Walked the Earth 48 Million Years Ago 80beats: Is an Ant Colony’s Caste System Determined by Epigenetics? 80beats: Finally, a Predator to Control the Notorious Cane Toad: Meat Ants? 80beats: Tricky Caterpillars Impersonate Queen Ants to Get Worker Ant ProtectionImage:

flickr / ebrelsford

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