Dec 29, 2020
It's easy to overlook an ant,
but look again. As one not-so-small part of the ecological role of
insects, ants have a profound impact, from their mutualistic
relationship with plants to their ability to farm and grow fungus
for food. Ecologist Tom Fayle shares many of these fascinating ant
Listen and learn
Tom Fayle is an ecologist and
research scientist at the Czech Academy of Sciences. As an
ecologist, he researches nature's networks, examining how species
interact and impact each other alongside abiotic factors like
elevation and human-generated impacts from deforestation to climate
He has specified his research to ant ecology and shares some jaw-dropping stories of ant behavior. While ants don't eat plants for the most part, they do live inside plants. In fact, many plant and ant species have a mutualistic relationship, where each provides a benefit to the other towards a healthier life and reproductive cycle.
He shares some of these
examples, including ants protecting plants by attacking
caterpillars that are trying to eat the plant. Ants can even weed,
cleaning plants of encroaching vines and clarifying the surface of
leaves from small epiphytes and lichens. In return, ants have a
place to live. Structures plants produce call donatia can house
ants, or they might use hollow stem structures.
Plants can even feed ants through liquid sugar production from nectar. Ecological relationships can also be parasitic, as is the case with a fungus that infects an ant, even controlling its behavior to locate itself in a spot that's prime for fungal growth. He also discusses his future plans researching topics that include exciting PhD and postdoc opportunities. Listen in for more details.