Leaf-cutter ants: Ways of preventing attack on agriculture. Draft #1

This discussion topic submitted by Alex Covert (covertsa@miamioh.edu) on 5/1/98.

After extensive reading and the consideration of many topics, I choose leaf-cutter ants because of a sentence written by Alexander F. Skutch in his book entitled, A Naturalist on a Tropical Farm. "As predation, parasitism, and every form of ruthless exploitation of one organism by another are proof of evolution's tragic failure to create a harmonious community of living things, so every instance of fruitful cooperation is evolution's triumph, a sample of what it might have achieved with a different sequence of mutations over the ages, or better, if it had been guided by a wise, compassionate Intelligence- a sample, too, of what the living world may be on some far-distant planet happier than our own." Mr. Skutch lives in Costa Rica and is talking about symbiosis, particularly that between leaf-cutter ants, fungi, and specific tropical plants. It is my intention to discuss to the class a little bit about leaf-cutter ants and their role(s) in nature. Specifically, I will talk about their preference for certain species of plants and why this is so.

I. Leaf-cutter ants

A. General description and pep talk

B. Ecology

C. Impact on tropical agriculture

D. Feeding preferences and possible reasons why.

Nicholsorians, C.M. "Environmentally Induced Differences in Plant Traits - Consequences for Susceptibility to a Leaf-Cutter Ant." Ecology. 72:(5) 1609-1623. Oct. 1991.

Folgarait, P.J. L.A. Dyer, R.J. Marquis, and H.E. Braker. "Leaf-cutting ant preferences for five native tropical plantation tree species growing under different light conditions." Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata. 80:(3) 521-530. Sept. 1996.

Vasconcelos, J.L. and J.M. Cherrett. "The effect of wilting on the selection of leaves by the leaf-cutting ant Atta laevigata." Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata. 78:92) 215-220. Feb. 1996.

Skutch, Alexander F. A Naturalist on a Tropical Farm. University of California Press. 1980.

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