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Ants of the genus Atta are leafcutter ants that comprise one of the two genera of the latter from a particular species of phorid fly that parasitises the leaf-carrying caste. and this is when gardening ants started their relationship with a fungus. Tetramorium nipponense Flying Insects, Ants, Spiders, Insects, Wood Ants, Bees, is a small subterranean formicine ant known for specialized relationships with hemipterans that feed on . Atta laevigata is the largest of the leafcutter ants. john dawson The Ants artist | John Dawson - leaf cutter ants, phorid fly John. Symbiosis Research Project. Create Your This phorid fly and leaf - cutter ant I found in Central America and parts South America. This fly lays.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution Licensewhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Abstract This review updates and summarizes the current knowledge about the interaction of leaf-cutter ants and their parasitoids by providing comparable data for Acromyrmex and Atta ants.
First, an overview of the relevant aspects of the biology and taxonomy of leaf cutters and of their parasitoids is provided. Second, I show the peculiarities of the parasitoids attacking behaviors towards their host as well as the responses or ant defenses against the phorids exhibited by their hosts.
Third, I discuss relevant aspects of the interactions between hosts and parasitoids. Finally, the review ends demonstrating why these phorids could be promising biological control agents of leaf-cutter pests and suggests priority lines of research for the future. Introduction Since the Feener Jr. Phorids attacking fire ants are the ones most extensively studied due to their application in biological control.
The literature is vast and dispersed although there is a review about Pseudacteon biology and interaction with fire ants [ 2 ].
Other scarce studies were done on other ant-phorid systems such as Pheidole [ 34 ], Azteca [ 56 ], and Paraponera [ 7 ]. Until more information is gathered, generalizations will not be possible for these groups. The mentioned work includes some biological data about parasitoids of Atta, mainly from the laboratory, but a comprehensive review about their biology and ecological interaction with their hosts, including data of Acromyrmex, has not been done.
Although the great majority of data available is limited to the southern portion of South America and therefore more work is needed, it is enough to observe general patterns. This review will summarize the current information about this system and will identify key questions and gaps of knowledge where researchers should focus attention.
Leaf-Cutter Ants The leaf cutters are a subgroup of the higher Attine fungus growing ants and are confined to two genera: Acromyrmex ants are the more diverse genus with 31 species with an additional 33 infraspecies [ 11 ].
Species that have more than 2 infraspecies, such as Ac. Atta, on the other hand, exhibits less richness 14 spp. Detailed maps of each species distribution can be found in Delabie et al.
Leafcutter Ant Facts For Kids
Atta and Acromyrmex are larger Attines and are readily distinguishable from other ants because of their generally larger size, morphology, and behaviors. Acromyrmex ants are easily recognized because all workers have at least 4 pairs of spines, 3 of which are on the thorax promesonotum. The mesonotum spines are regular and smooth; also the frontal carinas in the head are short and never go beyond the eyes. The first abdominal tergite usually has tuberculous [ 13 ]. Their color varies from black to orange yellowish.
On the other hand, Atta has 3 pairs of spines, 2 of which are in the promesonotum, the spines are generally curved, and the first abdominal tergite is smooth Figure 1.
Both genera are polymorphic, and although this trait is not as clear as in Atta, three castes of workers tiny, small, and medium can be differentiated in Acromyrmex; soldiers present in Atta are absent in Acromyrmex [ 14 ]. These ants have mass recruiting strategies, following a trail, more or less developed or clear, depending on the species, with 1 to several trails per nest, short or as long as m. In Atta foraging trails are numerous and very conspicuous.
Atta a, b and Acromyrmex c morphological differences and exhibiting different body postures. Acromyrmex colony nests can be completely hypogeous underground, i. The existent literature on the shape of Acromyrmex nests [ 15 — 17 ] is incomplete.
Another conspicuous feature that helps identify some species of this genus is the location of refuse dumps. Most Acromyrmex species have internal refuse dumps, although there are few exceptions where this characteristic is very helpful in identification i.
However, distinctions among species require an experienced eye that could also recognize key morphological characteristics of workers. Unfortunately, we know very little about the natural history of these species and the costs involved in dealing with trash and nest construction. For instances, is it less costly to lose additional workers by carrying the unsanitary trash outside to eliminate possible foci of infection or is it more energy efficient to close a trash filled internal chamber and not to maintain it?
If the trash is internal, are these ants taking advantage of the nutrients that mineralize within those trash-decomposition hot spots? Is the heat produced by internal refuse dumps utilized by the ants for colony or fungal thermoregulation?
Phoridae within 8 genera associated with Acromyrmex ants whereas 39 species in 5 genera were recorded on Atta. Also, he lists 7 cases of the same phorid species seen flying or sitting beside the nests of both genera.
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However, if only positive-sure cases hosts from which parasitoids emerge or phorids seen pursuing and attacking ants are considered, these numbers decrease for Acromyrmex to 15 species in 4 genera, for Atta to 25 species, and 4 genera with only 2 observations of phorids attacking both genera Apocephalus setitarsus and Myrmosicarius crudelisalthough these could well be mistakes or trials that were seen only once. Further observations for these two species should be specifically done as one of the references for each record is very old.
In fact, Elizalde and Folgarait [ 1219 ] argue that leaf-cutter phorid parasitoids are very specific in the sense that those attacking Acromyrmex ants do not attack Atta and vice versa. Therefore, these observations could be considered mistakes or tests made by the parasitoids. What really matters is the recurrent attack of a phorid species on the same host and its possibility of emerging from that host. According to this criterion, phorids that attack Acromyrmex or Atta ants are specific to that ant genus.
Recently the subgenus Eisbesfeldtphora was elevated to genus status [ 20 ], and a new genus with a single species has been described Lucianophora folgaraitae Disney [ 23 ]. However, Eibesfeldtphora is present in the largest number of countries [ 9 ].
Among the four most important genera attacking leaf-cutter ants, Apocephalus [ 26 ], Eibesfeldtphora [ 1027 ], Myrmosicarius [ 2829 ], and Neodohrniphora [ 10 ], it is difficult to say which one is most important.
In the case of Apocephalus, the subgenera Apocephalus includes only ant-decapitating flies, and these flies are recognized for lacking tibial setae and possessing abdominal segments 7 to 10 fused to form an ovipositor, with which the eggs are inserted into the host.
Segment 7 forms a rigid structure called oviscape. Another diagnostic character is the presence of a stylet comprised of segments 8 to 10 [ 30 ] Figure 2. The mentioned subgenus has subgroups specializing on different ant subfamilies. These are potentially monophyletic groups. Apocephalus flies attack both ant genera with 8 recorded species attacking Atta and 6 others that use Acromyrmex as hosts [ 9 ].
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Neodohrniphora at present has only two species attacking leaf cutters N. This genus is distinctive because the front legs have 5 unusual fore-tarsal segments. Besides, abdominal segment 6 is either reduced to hairs or has on its sides a transverse row of long hairs. Segment 7 also could be reduced to 2—4 hairy lobes or is basally articulated to form appendages. Beyond the ovipositor and below the tip of the abdomen is found a strongly sclerotized hook [ 31 ] Figure 2.
Eibesfeldtphora largely specializes as 9 out of 10 species are known to oviposit or develop on Atta hosts. It has yellow legs with dorsal enlarged hair palisade in all tibia. Fore leg with tarsomeres 4 and 5 fused, therefore with 4 distinctive tarsomeres. Abdominal segments are yellow ventrally 1—5but segment 6 is mainly dark. Segment 7 has several lateral lobes darkly sclerotized. Segments 8—10 form at the end a pointed stylet [ 27 ] Figure 2.
There are 6 Myrmosicarius species that attack Acromyrmex whereas only 3 attack Atta. Females of the latter are recognized because the front tarsus is reduced to two segments; the sternite of the abdominal segment 6 is absent or vestigial and, by the characteristic oviscape tube, relatively nonornamented, that is, formed from abdominal segments 7 and 8 [ 29 ] Figure 2.
Schematic drawings of phorids showing details of the main characters that can be used to easily identify and distinguish among the main genera attacking leaf-cutter ants. Sizes represent real relative differences. Other features that help to identify among the mentioned genera are related to the pupae.
Hymenopteran wings have relatively few veins compared with other insects. In the more ancestral hymenopterans, the ovipositor is blade-like, and has evolved for slicing plant tissues, in the majority, however, it is modified for piercing, and, in some cases, is several times the length of the body 5. Ant — Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from ancestors in the Cretaceous period, about 99 million years ago.
More than 12, of an total of 22, species have been classified. They are easily identified by their antennae and the distinctive node-like structure that forms their slender waists.
Larger colonies consist mostly of sterile, wingless females forming castes of workers, soldiers, nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called drones and one or more fertile females called queens. The colonies are described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth. Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their organisation and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources.
Their long co-evolution with other species has led to mimetic, commensal, parasitic, Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study, many human cultures make use of ants in cuisine, medication, and rituals.
Some species are valued in their role as biological pest control agents and their ability to exploit resources may bring ants into conflict with humans, however, as they can damage crops and invade buildings.
The family Formicidae belongs to the order Hymenoptera, which also includes sawflies, bees, Ants evolved from a lineage within the aculeate wasps, and a study suggests that they are a sister group of the Apoidea. Wilson and his colleagues identified the remains of an ant that lived in the Cretaceous period. The specimen, trapped in amber dating back to around 92 million years ago, has found in some wasps.
Sphecomyrma possibly was a ground forager, while Haidomyrmex and Haidomyrmodes, older ants in the genus Sphecomyrmodes have been found in 99 million year-old amber from Myanmar. After the rise of flowering plants about million years ago they diversified and assumed ecological dominance around 60 million years ago.
Some groups, such as the Leptanillinae and Martialinae, are suggested to have diversified from early primitive ants that were likely to have been predators underneath the surface of the soil, during the Cretaceous period, a few species of primitive ants ranged widely on the Laurasian supercontinent 6. He is known by the father of modern taxonomy.
He received most of his education at Uppsala University.
He lived abroad between andwhere he studied and also published a first edition of his Systema Naturae in the Netherlands and he then returned to Sweden, where he became professor of medicine and botany at Uppsala. In the s, he was sent on journeys through Sweden to find and classify plants.
In the s and s, he continued to collect and classify animals, plants, and minerals, at the time of his death, he was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe. The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, Swedish author August Strindberg wrote, Linnaeus was in reality a poet who happened to become a naturalist.
Among other compliments, Linnaeus has been called Princeps botanicorum, The Pliny of the North and he is also considered as one of the founders of modern ecology. In botany, the abbreviation used to indicate Linnaeus as the authority for species names is L. In older publications, sometimes the abbreviation Linn. One of a line of peasants and priests, Nils was an amateur botanist, a Lutheran minister. Whenever he was upset, he was given a flower, which calmed him.
Biodiversity — Biodiversity, a contraction of biological diversity, generally refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth. One of the most widely used definitions defines it in terms of the variability within species and it is a measure of the variety of organisms present in different ecosystems. This can refer to genetic variation, ecosystem variation, or species variation within an area, biome, terrestrial biodiversity tends to be greater near the equator, which seems to be the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity.
Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, and is richest in the tropics and these tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 per cent of earths surface, and contain about 90 percent of the worlds species.
Marine biodiversity tends to be highest along coasts in the Western Pacific, there are latitudinal gradients in species diversity. Biodiversity generally tends to cluster in hotspots, and has been increasing through time, the number and variety of plants, animals and other organisms that exist is known as biodiversity.
It is a component of nature and it ensures the survival of human species by providing food, fuel, shelter, medicines. The richness of biodiversity depends on the conditions and area of the region. All species of plants taken together are known as flora and aboutspecies of plants are known to date, all species of animals taken together are known as fauna which includes birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects, crustaceans, molluscs, etc.
Rapid environmental changes typically cause mass extinctions, more than 99 percent of all species, amounting to over five billion species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct.
Estimates on the number of Earths current species range from 10 million to 14 million, of which about 1. More recently, in Mayscientists reported that 1 trillion species are estimated to be on Earth currently with only one-thousandth of one percent described, the total amount of related DNA base pairs on Earth is estimated at 5.
In comparison, the mass of the biosphere has been estimated to be as much as 4 TtC. In Julyscientists reported identifying a set of genes from the Last Universal Common Ancestor of all living on Earth. The age of the Earth is about 4. Other early physical evidence of a substance is graphite in 3. More recently, inremains of life were found in 4. According to one of the researchers, If life arose relatively quickly on Earth, then it could be common in the universe 8. Leafcutter ant — Leafcutter ants, a non-generic name, are any of 47 species of leaf-chewing ants belonging to the two genera Atta and Acromyrmex.
These species of tropical, fungus-growing ants are all endemic to South and Central America, Mexico, Leafcutter ants can carry more than times their body weight and cut and process fresh vegetation to serve as the nutritional substrate for their fungal cultivars.
Acromyrmex and Atta ants have much in common anatomically, however, Atta ants have three pairs of spines and a smooth exoskeleton on the upper surface of the thorax, while Acromyrmex ants have four pairs and a rough exoskeleton. Next to humans, leafcutter ants form the largest and most complex animal societies on Earth, winged females and males leave their respective nests en masse and engage in a nuptial flight known as the revoada.
Each female mates with males to collect the million sperm she needs to set up a colony. Once on the ground, the female loses her wings and searches for an underground lair in which to found her colony.
The success rate of young queens is very low. To start her own garden, the queen stores bits of the parental fungus garden mycelium in her infrabuccal pocket.
In a mature leafcutter colony, ants are divided into castes, based mostly on size, Acromyrmex and Atta exhibit a high degree of biological polymorphism, four castes being present in established colonies—minims, minors, mediae, and majors. Majors are also known as soldiers or dinergates, Atta ants are more polymorphic than Acromyrmex, meaning comparatively less difference occurs in size from the smallest to largest types of Acromymex.
Minims are the smallest workers, and tend to the brood or care for the fungus gardens. Head width is less than 1 mm, minors are slightly larger than minima workers, and are present in large numbers in and around foraging columns.
These ants are the first line of defense and continuously patrol the surrounding terrain, head width is around 1. Mediae are the generalized foragers, which cut leaves and bring the leaf fragments back to the nest. The largest soldiers may have body lengths up to 16 mm. Their societies are based on an ant-fungus mutualism, and different species of ants use different species of fungus, the ants actively cultivate their fungus, feeding it with freshly cut plant material and keeping it free from pests and molds.
This mutualistic relationship is further augmented by another symbiotic partner, a bacterium that grows on the ants and secretes chemicals, essentially, leaf cutter ants are sensitive enough to adapt to the fungis reaction to different plant material, apparently detecting chemical signals from the fungus.
If a particular type of leaf is toxic to the fungus, the only two other groups of insects to use fungus-based agriculture are ambrosia beetles and termites. The fungus cultivated by the adults is used to feed the ant larvae, the fungus needs the ants to stay alive, and the larvae need the fungus to stay alive, so the mutualism is obligatory 9.
After doing so, the males die and the females lose their wings and attempt to start their own colonies. She will locate a suitable location for a new nest, and excavate a chamber. The fungus is used to start a new fungus garden. The queen lays eggs to begin a new colony. Leafcutter Ant Facts Scientists have only recorded a tiny proportion of the insect species that live in the Amazon rainforest. It is thought that there could be millions of different insects living in the region.
Many rainforest creatures eat leafcutter ants, including anteaters, armadillos, and many species of reptiles and birds. Ants are able to detect if a particular type of plant is unsuitable for feeding to the fungus, and will avoid that plant in future. In some areas, leafcutter ants are considered pests, as they can cause considerable damage to crops. Most of the ants in the nest are female, but only the queens can produce eggs.
The new queens are responsible for feeding and tending to the new fungus garden themselves. Most of the first eggs laid by the queen are eaten by her and her larvae. The biggest soldier ants are only deployed when the threat warrants their use. Smaller threats are dealt with by smaller ants. Older ants are used to transport waste from the nest, freeing up younger ants to perform more important tasks.
Leafcutter ants live in a symbiotic partnership with the fungus. This means that each species relies on the other to survive. Trails of foraging ants can be as long as 30m. Leafcutter ants can be beneficial to the rainforest ecosystem by creating rich soil that stimulates growth in nearby plants. The ant life cycle has four stages: Conclusion We hope that you have enjoyed learning about these amazing rainforest animals.