Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Parasites Prevent Ants From Protecting Coffee Plants

Date:
August 8, 2003
Source:
University Of Michigan
Summary:
Azteca ants are voracious predators that live on coffee plants and aggressively defend their territories. That’s generally good for the coffee plants, which are protected in the process against all sorts of insect pests.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Azteca ants are voracious predators that live on coffee plants and aggressively defend their territories. That’s generally good for the coffee plants, which are protected in the process against all sorts of insect pests.

Related Articles


But the whole system goes awry when parasitic flies called phorids enter the picture. When they get the chance, the flies lay eggs in Azteca ants’ heads, but they also influence the ants’ behavior, with far-reaching results, a University of Michigan graduate student has discovered.

“When phorid flies appear near an ant nest, the ants all run back inside the nest, severely limiting their ability to search for or attack their prey,” said Stacy Philpott, who will present her findings Aug. 5 at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. “The result in itself is surprising since most people think of a parasite as something that kills its host, not as something that has an effect by changing the behavior of its host.”

In experiments conducted on coffee plantations in Mexico, Philpott found that Azteca ants are more efficient predators than other ants, finding and eliminating caterpillars and other potential pests from coffee plants faster than other common ants in the same farms. But when she compared ant attacks on caterpillars on coffee plants where phorids were found with those on phorid-free plants, she found that the numbers of ants patrolling the plants were cut in half when phorids were present. In addition, ants took more than twice as long to carry away caterpillars on plants with phorids, and some caterpillars on those plants escaped ant attacks altogether.

The system illustrates what ecologists call a trophic cascade, in which changes higher up in the food chain cascade or trickle down to affect organisms at lower levels.

“Having phorids in the system cascades down to affect Azteca prey via their interactions with Azteca ants,” Philpott said. “The phorids, however, may also affect how Azteca interact with other species of ants or with other predators such as spiders, with potentially more widespread effects in coffee agroecosystems.”

It’s also possible that birds and other predators on insect pests compensate for the Azteca ants’ reduced activity, said Philpott, who plans to investigate the system further. “The overall impacts on coffee production will depend on the interactions among all these groups of predators.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Michigan. "Parasites Prevent Ants From Protecting Coffee Plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030808080855.htm>.
University Of Michigan. (2003, August 8). Parasites Prevent Ants From Protecting Coffee Plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030808080855.htm
University Of Michigan. "Parasites Prevent Ants From Protecting Coffee Plants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030808080855.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) The Australian Museum has taken in its fourth-ever goblin shark, a rare fish with an electricity-sensing snout and &apos;alien-like&apos; jaw. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) takes a look. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) A newly discovered hormone mimics the effects of exercise, protecting against diabetes and weight gain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins