Ants and their interactions with other organisms
NB. This site is not currently being updated, but contains some useful background information.
|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.
|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.|
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