Friday, 7 February 2014

Biting and chewing

Sometimes I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew. Lovely acacia! But so many leaflets!

Here's a look up through the leaves of the real thing. The deal is, the thorns are a home that the tree makes specially for its symbiotic ant-friends Pseudomyrmex ferruginea.

The warty structures on the stem of the leaf here are extrafloral nectaries, with a special recipe of nectar for the same ant species. In addition to this sugary treat the tree provides the ants with a delicious proteiny fatty snack, the Beltian body - the yellow jobs on the ends of the leaflets here. In return for this luxury hospitality the ants protect the tree from hervivores, attack any vines thet come within spritting distance of the tree and generally weed out all the competition from around the tree. If you want to see really good photos of  Pseudomyrmex ferruginea (or any other ant), have a look at Alex Wild's photography.

Here's Pat Clifford at RBGE heroically lifting slabs in a search for nodules, hardly anything at all, a bit disappointing but there were one or two which is enough to be going on with.

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