ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Aerial Life of the Ant Plants Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia

Updated on March 3, 2014
Hydnophytum longiflorum
Hydnophytum longiflorum | Source
Myrmecodia platytyrea
Myrmecodia platytyrea | Source
Detail on the inside of the ant plant caudex with its chambers and tunnels.
Detail on the inside of the ant plant caudex with its chambers and tunnels.
Closer look on the ants living in the caudex.
Closer look on the ants living in the caudex.

There is a group of plants, commonly known as ant plants that establish a very unusual relationship with ants, but they do not use these insects as pollinators. These plants from the genera Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia are all epiphyts, i.e. they live on branches and trunks of trees from where they get mechanical support and water derived from moisture from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it. They are all found in mangroves of tropical forests of northern Australia and Southeast Asia, mainly in the Indonesian archipelago. The ant plants are small plants that store water and food in a swollen stem, called caudex that grows spines over time in some species of both genera. Standing high above the soil and with no roots on it to absorb nutrients the ant plants developed an unusual way of getting them by hosting special guests, ants. The caudecis can grow as big as a football ball and have numerous holes and interconnected chambers and tunnels inside them where ants live. There inside, the queen ant lays its eggs continuously and the larvae are fed and protected in special chambers. In other different and darker chambers ants lay their excrements and debris from the insects they hunt down. These nitrate and phosphate rich organic wastes will then become the nutrient supply that the ant plant needs. The walls of these chambers and the interconnecting tunnels are lined with glands in which specialized cells absorb nutrients from the food wastes accumulated by the ants. In this way, the ants supply food for the plant and in return they obtain shelter and a place to establish their own colony. The spiny caudex offers protection for the ants against predators and the ants also provide defense for the ant plant and prevent its tissue damage. This especial mutualistic relationship between the ant plants and ants is called myrmecotrophy, and the ant plant a myrmecophyt. This symbiosis and the specialization observed in the caudex of the ant plants allows these plants to effectively obtain nutrients (via the ants) from a much larger area than the roots could ever cover, and survive in such a harsh and difficult environment that characterizes the mangrove forests. Some species of the genus Hydnophytum can be grown as house plants without the ants being present. This shows that theses species do not have an obligate mutualistic relationship with ants in order to survive. However, the conditions which allow growing them as houseplants are most likely not met in nature in their natural habitat. This mutualistic relationship between ants and the ant plants differs from that of the bullhorn acacia, in Central America, in that the ant plant does feed the ants but serves only as place for the ants to establish their colony.


Details on the several aspects of the ants lif inside Myrmecodia plants.
Details on the several aspects of the ants lif inside Myrmecodia plants. | Source

Indonesian Archipelago & Northern Australia

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • carolinemoon profile image

      carolinemoon 

      6 years ago

      Great article. Learn something new.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)