Ants and their interactions with other organisms

NB. This site is not currently being updated, but contains some useful background information.
Please see the site for the Centre for Social Evolution ( for more recent research.

Social insects (ants, bees, termites and wasps) are unusual in both the number and diversity of their interactions with other organisms. These interactions range from mutualism, in which both partners gain from the interaction, to parasitism, where one partner gains and the other loses from the interaction.


Research at the Universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark has concentrated on two different examples of interactions between ants and other organisms.
Fungus-growing ants
Large blue butterflies
Fungus-growing ants (which include the Leaf-cutting ants) collect various materials which they feed to a symbiotic fungus that lives in their nests. The ants then feed on special nutritional bodies produced by the fungus. This is an example of mutualism. The ants are dependent on the fungus and vice-versa. This means that the ants have evolved special mechanisms to protect the fungus from parasites and predators.Large blue butterflies spend most of their larval stage inside ant nests, either eating ant larvae or being fed by the ants as if they were the ants' own brood (like cuckoos). This is an example of parasitism. The butterflies are dependent on the ants for survival, and have evolved special mechanisms to allow them to trick the ants into looking after them, even though it is against the ants own interests to do so.
Click here or on the picture above to find out more
Click here or on the picture above to find out more

This site was last updated on Friday, March 30, 2007 by David Nash, to whom all errors, omissions, broken links, inconsistencies, ideas and anything else relevant should be reported.
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