What lurks in the 5-inch thorns of this African acacia tree?

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Acacia tree - St. Lucia, South Africa

In spite of their bare exterior, these thorns are full of life. My favorite kind of life, in fact. Ants!

Tetraponera worker with eggs. The ant's gracile form is perfect for living in long, thin spaces.
With larvae.

The relationship between Tetraponera and tree is complex. The Acacia hosts several other ant species, notably Crematogaster acrobat ants, and the different species have different effects on their host plant at different stages in the tree’s life, sometimes beneficial, sometimes not. The system is an ecologist’s dream (or nightmare, depending on your perspective), and has generated an impressive technical literature attempting to untangle the nuances.

5 thoughts on “What lurks in the 5-inch thorns of this African acacia tree?”

  1. This Tetraponera is very graceful. I only knew a little about this relationship with Acacia and obviously not the whole story. It warrants my further investigation. Also, in my limited experience with ants, ecology is always both a dream and a nightmare. I think it is because the ants don’t read the literature and I do…

  2. Pingback: Shout-out for Plant (and Bug!) links for Berry Go Round! | Splendour Awaits

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