Lycaenid-tending Ants

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Tomorrow I’m flying to Kenya where I’ll be working on the mechanisms behind ant-acacia plant mutualisms. It will be my first time on the African continent, a land crafted by the survival of megafauna. Really a completely new biological world for me to learn about. Oh, and the caracal also lives there :O Here is another cool ant association, from my fieldwork in Fogg Dam, northern Australia — meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus) tending two lycaenid caterpillars (possibly in the genera Jalmenus or Philiris). The characterizations of these kinds of relationships are complex, though the short and sweet story is that the larva provides ants with nutritious secretions from its dorsal nectary organ, while the ants actively defend (and sometimes transport) the larva from predators and parasitoids.

Photographed in situ [1]


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