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Index > News Blog > News > ScienceDaily: Ants Take on Goliath Role in Protecting Trees in the Savanna from Elephants

ScienceDaily: Ants Take on Goliath Role in Protecting Trees in the Savanna from Elephants

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Ants are not out of their weight class when defending trees from the appetite of nature's heavyweight, the African elephant, a new University of Florida study finds.

Columns of angered ants will crawl up into elephant trunks to repel the ravenous beasts from devouring tree cover throughout drought-plagued East African savannas, playing a potentially important role in regulating carbon sequestration in these ecosystems, said Todd Palmer, a UF biology professor and co-author of a paper being published in the journal Current Biology.

"It really is a David and Goliath story, where these little ants are up against these huge herbivores, protecting trees and having a major impact on the ecosystems in which they live," Palmer said. "Swarming groups of ants that weigh about 5 milligrams each can and do protect trees from animals that are about a billion times more massive."

The mixture of trees and grasses that make up savanna ecosystems are traditionally thought to be regulated by rainfall, soil nutrients, plant-eating herbivores and fire, he said.

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Pseudomyrmex ferruginea (Acacia ants):
Picture by Ryan Somma licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
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Last Updated on Thursday, 02 September 2010 22:05