Thursday, May 28, 2009

Farming ants reveal evolution secrets

“Ants have been growing fungus for 50 million years,” says biologist Nicole Gerardo. “That provides a lot of time for many adaptations to arise, and for the ants’ agricultural practices to become more advanced.”

For example, bacteria on the body of some ants inhibits a killer of the ants’ fungus crop. “Humans go and buy an insecticide for a particular pest in their gardens, but these ants have the pesticide right on their bodies,” Gerardo says.

The Gerardo lab studies the environmental, chemical and molecular processes that occur between bacteria, the ants and the fungi. This complex symbiosis could provide clues to improving agriculture methods and fighting human diseases.

Take a video tour of the world of these fascinating gardening ants, including micro footage by biology research specialist Nancy Lowe.

Working through the bugs of evolution

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