Ants the plants were worshiped for millions of years, but eventually the plants developed a system of properties that allowed them to use the ants looking for their own benefit.
Gradually, the plants evolved to produce nectar that attracts the ants and hollow spikes that ants can use for shelter. Sometimes the ants even prevent the plants from attacking or help to spread the seed of the plant.
It is a mutually beneficial relationship and an example of how complex interactions between two organisms evolve over time.
Researchers from Field Museum conducted a study to better understand this evolutionary relationship and to find out which organism jumpstarted interaction, plant traits or feeding ants.
"It was a matter of chickens and eggs, whether things start with ants that are behaving to use plants or plants that develop structures to use ants," said Rick Ree, co-author of the study.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences and researchers reviewed the genetic history of 1,700 species of ants and 10,000 plant genera.
Ants and plants return to the age of dinosaurs, but the study of these ancient interactions is difficult because there is so little fossil evidence about the relationship between plants and ants.
"There are very few fossil recordings about these structures, which are not overpricing over time, and there are plenty of brass fossils, but these ants do not usually show – we do not necessarily see ants kept in amber bearing seed," said Matt Nelsen, principal author of the study.
To help rectify the gap in the information, researchers researched and analyzed DNA and ecological databases to track the genetic history of various plant functions.
Mapping the history of ants of friendly features in plants, scientists have found that plants have developed these appealing features in response to tingling. It turned out that ants rely on plants for longer than plants that rely on ants.
"Some ants do not use plants directly for many, while others rely on food, food and nesting," Nelson said. "We found that, to fully invest in crop production, ants first began growing trees, then incorporating the plants into their diet, and from then on they started nesting in trees. While this gradual shift toward greater plant reliance is intuitive, we still I'm surprised. "
It seems that plants have a greater benefit from this relationship, as researchers have found that ants that are plant-dependent are not better, evolutionarily speaking, than other species of ants that are unsaturated or nesting in plants.
"We do not see parts of an ancestral tree that include ants that rely on plants to make food or habitats diversify or grow faster than those parts of the tree that lack these interactions," Nelsen said. "This study is important because it provides insight into how these extensive and complex interactions have evolved."
According to Kay Vandette, Earth.com Personal Writer
Image Credit: (c) Field Museum, Corrie Moreau