Myrmecotrophy: Plants fed by ants

Andrew Beattie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Two plant genera with tubers specialized for occupation by ants absorb nutrients from waste materials accumulated by the resident colonies. The mineral resources of these host plants are augmented by colony foraging which functions as a second root system. This mutualistic interaction has become known as myrmecotrophy. Many other kinds of plant structure are apparent adaptations to accommodate ant colonies; these include pouches on leaves or petioles and hollow twigs, stems or thorns. Sometimes the ant species residing in these structures are aggressive towards enemies of the host plant and are important for plant defence. Recent research provides some evidence that myrmecotrophy may have a wider role in plant nutrition, at least when subsidizing the costs of plant defence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-176
Number of pages5
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1989


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