Imagine farmers working together with ants to provide food for humanity. It's mind-blowing. A recent research may be the key to make this possible. Experts discovered that ants know how to plant seeds and reap what they sow.
Experts studied the behavior of Florida harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex badius
. They learned that these ants eat seeds by planting it and waiting for it to germinate. The soft spoil will be the ants' food rather than eating the seeds raw.
The team of Walter R. Tschinkel at the Florida State University, conducted the study. Earlier beliefs say that ants eat the seeds by breaking through the seeds’ tough exterior. However, Tschinkel team was not convinced. So they studied the behavior of ants.
“There are many studies of seed choice by forager harvester ants, but none of the authors asked the question of whether the ants can open the seeds,” Tschinkel told New Scientist
. “This may be in part because most of these studies were done on western harvester ants whose deep nests are in hard soil, so the seed chambers are not easily excavated.”
Experts studied approximately 200 P. badius
nests, and found that the ants mostly open and consume small seeds, which are easier to crack. However, 70 percent of the stored seeds are too huge for the ants to break.
In the lab, the researchers learned that P. badius
doesn’t seem to be able to open the large seeds unless they have germinated first. Once the seeds mature, it splits the tough husk, making the seed contents available as food for the ants.
Thus, what the ants do is collect piles of seeds and store it underground. For tough and huge seeds, P. badius
, wait for it germinate before they consume it. A large seed may have nutritional value of 15 smaller seeds. Clearly, it's worth the wait.
Definitely, we're going to learn more from ants.