Fungi-farming ants: a new phylogeny

Species of ants that practice a complex form of fungi agriculture developed their knack for farming about 50 million years ago and have employed several different, successful strategies to culture their crops in the intervening millennia, according to a linkurl:study;http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0711024105v1 published in __PNAS__ today. Smithsonian Institution entomologist linkurl:Ted Schultz;http://entomology.si.edu/StaffPages/schultz.htm told __The Scientist__ that humans - who de

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Mar 23, 2008
Species of ants that practice a complex form of fungi agriculture developed their knack for farming about 50 million years ago and have employed several different, successful strategies to culture their crops in the intervening millennia, according to a linkurl:study;http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0711024105v1 published in __PNAS__ today. Smithsonian Institution entomologist linkurl:Ted Schultz;http://entomology.si.edu/StaffPages/schultz.htm told __The Scientist__ that humans - who developed an linkurl:agriculture;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53120/ that is still fraught with difficulties only about 10,000 years ago - could learn from the nearly 50 million year history of ant agriculture. "There has been a co-evolution [between ants and the fungi they farm] that's very much like the kind of co-evolution that has taken place between humans and our cultivars," he said. Some fungi-farming ant species have even weathered crop diseases by developing their own forms of antibiotic control. "It's possible that we could learn something from these incredibly ancient, stable states." Schultz and his colleague linkurl:Sean Brady;http://entomology.si.edu/StaffPages/BradyS.htm...

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