A new study showed that ants might have been farming plants long before humans started to. This study suggests that these insects might have been doing this for millions of years. Guillaume Chomicki, an evolutionary biologist, discovered that a community of ants has been cultivating 6 different species of plants.
After analyzing DNA evidence, the researcher found that these insects have been doing this for more than 3 million years. By comparison, humans have been farming plants for 23,000 years. This means that ants have been cultivating plants longer than humans.
The plants that are farmed by these insects are part of the Squamellaria family. These plans usually grow on trees and on other plants. These plants are also named “ant-plants” due to their unique relation with the critters.
The study about ants farming plants has been published in Nature Plants this Monday. The leader of the study mentioned that these ants are named Philidris nagasu. They are interesting insects that are involved in every aspect of the life cycle of the plants they are cultivating.
In order to cultivate these plants, the ants cut the fruit’s wall to get the seeds. After that, they put the seeds in holes and guard the seeds until they grow. The ants also fertilize the plants once they get bigger.
These plants are great for ants too. They offer the ants a place to live. Once the plant grows, the structure of the plant is perfect for ants.
The leader of the study analyzed the inside of these plans and he mentioned that it is “an incredibly complex system of interconnected galleries, which looks like a brain.”
The bigger the plant gets, the happier the ants are. If a plant is big, more ants can live inside it. If there are more ants inside the plant, they fertilize it even more, which helps the plant grow even more.
The author of the study mentioned that he never saw this type of ant living anywhere else than inside the plants. He also mentioned that he did not observe a plant without ants. This means that the natural process is great for both the ants and the plants.
What is your opinion about this study? Did you know that ants are farming plants?
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