Ants Started Farming Long Before Humans

Posted: Nov 25 2016, 10:25am CST | by , Updated: Nov 25 2016, 10:33am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Ants Farming Long Before Humans
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  • Agriculture is not a Solely Human Invention
 

Agriculture apparently is not a solely human invention. Several species of animals, specifically ants, employ methods of food farming that bear a close likeness to agriculture.

Ants get the bum rap when it comes to picnic spoiling. Who hasn’t faced all those nasty fire ants that come to ruin your sunny day.

When you are in the great outdoors and sit on a large piece of cloth and eat your sandwiches and drink your lemonade, they come marching in like alien soldiers to hijack your food.

A novel study, published this week in the journal Nature Plants, however shows that these ants are in fact better farmers than some human beings. 

One species of ants that lives in Fiji has been planting farms since the past 3 million years or so. Termed Philidris nagasau, it happens to be a small black ant that is not all that conspicuous.

It lives in and eats a special plant that grows in the crevices of trees.This plant forms a sort of fungus with buds. These ants not only dwell within these trees but they farm these plants that grow in their nooks and crannies.

Botanists and zoologists noticed these ants when they saw many of them clustered inside the plant fungus growths in these trees.   

These insects also moved back and forth between the trees. The ants normally gather the seeds of the plants and deposit them in the cracks. As they grow, the ants fertilize them with their excrement.

Once the fruits start coming, they gather the seeds and thus the loop is completed. The process then restarts all over again. The ants and plants form a sort of symbiosis. The whole tale is singular in its uniqueness. This is a case of the ants being “prosumers” that produce what they consume. 

About 40% of the plants in the US are cross-fertilized by these ants. Yet these ants are not so special as far as sampling the art of agriculture is concerned.

Leafcutter ants have been at it since the past 8 million odd years. They however only farm fungus and not plants. Some of the ant species have even domesticated animals in the process of making food.

Many of them herd wild aphids too. They milk honeydew by petting the aphids with their antenna. It shows that mankind is not all that clever to begin with. Many animals have senses that far surpass humans.

What they lose out on in matters having to do with linguistics or science and technology, these animals more than make up for in other senses (some of which we do not even know about).

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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