Myrmelachista schumanni

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Myrmelachista schumanni
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Genus: Myrmelachista
Species: M. schumanni
Binomial name
Myrmelachista schumanni
Emery, 1890

Myrmelachista schumanni, also known as the lemon ant, is a species of ant that is notable for the creation of Devil's garden. Using its own herbicide they kill off all they plants in an area except for the myrmecophytes, or ant-plants, in which they reside.

M. schumanni live in large clearings in the rainforest, called devil's gardens, where there is little to no bio-diversity compared to the surrounding area. There are only one to three species of plants found in these areas consisting of Cordia nodosa, Tococa guianensis, Duroia hirsuta or Clidemia heterophylla.[1]

The few studies of the mutualism between M. schumanni-D. hirsuta have incorrectly concluded that these clearings are formed by allelopathy on the part of D. hirsuta. It was established that worker ants were injecting leaves with formic acid, a toxin commonly produced in ant species, and the plants started to die within 24 hours. Lemon ants are the only known insect to use formic acid as a herbicide.[2]

By killing other plants, the lemon ants provide themselves with a nest site, usually residing in D. hirsuta. Researchers estimate that the largest garden observed, contains 328 trees over 1,300 square meters and is around 800 years old.[3]

Lemon Ants get their name from literally tasting like lemons when eaten.[4]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Yu, Douglas. "A Plant needs Ants like a Dog Needs Fleas: Myrmelachista schumanni Ants Gall Many Tree Species to Create Housing". The American Naturalist. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  2. ^ Roach, John. "Ants Use Acid to Make "Gardens" in Amazon, Study Says". National Geographic. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  3. ^ Ross, Alison. "Devilish ants control the garden". BBC. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  4. ^ Sinberg, Stan. "Tracking the lemon ants of the Amazon". St. Petersburg Times Online Travel. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 

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