An incredible new study claims that this species of ant is capable of doing something that we thought only humans could do.
It is an absolutely astonishing discovery: ever since mankind existed, we believed only we were capable of certain things, but an ant that lives in Fiji has shown some amazing human-like behavior by running its own farm. And Philidris nagasau has been farming plants for 3 million years, far longer than mankind has even been around, the study found.
Basically, the small black ant has a symbiotic relationship with a plant called Squamellaria, which it both eats and lives in. The plant grows in the cracks of trees and looks like a fungus, according to a statement from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen. The study was published in the journal Nature Plants.
Scientists watched as ants moved back and forth between two different Squamellaria plants despite being in the same colony. The ants had been gathering seeds from the plant and then putting them in the cracks of trees, and as the plants started growing, the ants would use poop to fertilize them. Then, the ants harvested the seeds that grew in the plant and the process began anew. Ever Squamellaria plant scientists checked contained ants.
The statement notes: “In contrast to other instances of symbiosis between plants and ants, the interaction between Squamellaria and Philidris nagasau has become so specialized that neither partner can survive on its own. The LMU researchers were able to date the beginnings of the ant-plant symbioses by using the degrees of difference between homologous DNA sequences in both plants and ants as independent molecular clocks.
“Based on calibrated rates of mutation, one can work out approximately when the species involved in the interactions originated, and thus the earliest point at which the symbioses could have formed,” it continues. “The results indicate that the mutualistic relationship between Philidris and Squamellaria began about 3 million years ago, probably as a result of the evolution of reciprocally beneficial adaptations. The ants presumably “discovered” how to promote the growth and propagation of their hosts only after Squamellaria had adopted the epiphytic lifestyle.”