Published : Friday, 18 October, 2019 at 4:45 PM Count : 277
Ants can protect plants from certain diseases thanks to the infection-fighting antibiotic chemicals they secrete from their legs and bodies, a study has found.
The findings suggest that the benefits of these antibiotics to plants may be as significant as the service ants provide in defending plants from herbivores.
Researchers reviewing the literature on interactions between ants and plant microorganisms found that the insects can reduce infections of 14 plant diseases.
As they live in close quarters in ant hills and colonies, they are at high risk in the event of a spreading infection.
To combat this, however, ants are very hygienic and produce antibiotics that can help to cure themselves. These are secreted by glands on their body.
In addition, the insects support colonies of bacteria on their legs that also produce antibiotics.
Researchers hope in the future that further work on ants will reveal natural pesticides that can be applied to fight resistant plant diseases.
Bioscientists Joachim Offenberg and Christian Damgaard of Aarhus University, Denmark reviewed existing literature on interactions between ants, tropical plants and disease-caused microorganisms.
They wanted to find out if different ants' hygiene methods — which include the production of antibiotics — could have effects that extend to their host plants.
The duo had been inspired to investigate by previous research that had shown the introduction of wood ants to an apple plantation reduced the occurrence of the diseases apple rot and scab on the trees.
From 30 reported combinations of ants, plants and microorganisms, the researchers found that ants reduced pathogen levels in 18 cases, but increases in 6.
In total, the ants' secretions appear to inhibit at least 14 different plant diseases.
On average, this equated to a pathogen reduction of 59 per cent — similar to overall effect size estimated for ants' protection of plants from herbivores.-Daily Mail