Devil's garden

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For other uses, see Devil's Garden (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Devil's gardens.

In myrmecology and forest ecology, a devil's garden (Kichwa: Supay chakra,[1] Spanish: Jardin del Curupira) is a large stand of trees in the Amazon Rainforest consisting almost exclusively of a single species, Duroia hirsuta. Devil's gardens are immediately recognizable because the dominance of a single tree species is dramatically different from the biodiversity of the forest as a whole.

According to Deborah Gordon, devil's gardens got their name because locals believed that an evil forest spirit Chullachaki[2] (meaning "uneven foot, single foot" in Kichwa) lived in them.

The ant Myrmelachista schumanni creates devil's gardens by systematically poisoning all plants in the vicinity except D. hirsuta, the tree in which it nests. The ant poisons the plants by injecting formic acid into the base of the leaf. By killing other plants, the ant promotes the growth and reproduction of D. hirsuta, which has hollow stems that provide nest sites for the ants; A single ant colony might have more than 3 million workers and 15,000 queens, and may persist for more than 800 years.[3] Although the ants fend off herbivores, the size of the garden is restricted by leaf destruction increasing as it expands, as the ants are unable to defend the trees beyond a certain point.[4][5]

Frederickson points out that this symbiosis is an example of niche construction.

References[edit]

  1. ^ David P. Edwards, Megan E. Frederickson, Glenn H. Shepard, and Douglas W. Yu (2009): A Plant Needs Ants like a Dog Needs Fleas: Myrmelachista schumanni Ants Gall Many Tree Species to Create Housing. The American Naturalist 174, no. 5: pp. 734-740.
  2. ^ Pablo Amaringo: Ayahuasca Visions - "a vision of the Supay-chacra or garden of the Chullachaki."
  3. ^ Frederickson, M. E., Greene, M. J., & Gordon, D. (2005). Ecology: 'Devil's gardens' bedevilled by ants. Nature 437: 495-6.
  4. ^ Frederickson, M. E., & Gordon, D. (2007). The devil to pay: the cost of mutualism with Myrmelachista schumanni ants in 'devil's gardens' is increased herbivory on Duroia hirsuta trees. Proc. R. Soc. B. 274 (1613): 1117-23.
  5. ^ BBC News: Devilish ants control the garden. 21 September 2005. Retrieved August 12, 2006.