Harvester ants in Florida are harvested and germinated seeds of plants to cleanse them of their hard rind.
Living in the North American Pogonomyrmex ants could be called the reapers: the majority of the representatives of this family gathers to eat the seeds of plants, including type species Pogonomyrmex badius. Small, red, and biting, they can accumulate in their colonies serious reserves in the hundreds of thousands of seeds.
Feeding behavior of these ants-the reapers have studied the Florida entomologist Walter Tschinkel and his colleague Christina Kwapich from the University of Arizona. The article, published in the journal PLоS One, researchers write that works on what plants prefer ants, it was done, but no one has still thought about the simple question of how they eat.
According to the authors, the insects are easier to crack hard shell small seeds, trying to reach the nutritious pulp. Studies of about 200 nests showed that in the “stock” accumulated surplus (70 percent or more) of large seeds to crack not even specialized biters individuals with their very powerful jaws. In this regard, Zinkel and Kwapich wondered how ants generally use such seeds.
Scientists had to reinforce the observations of laboratory experiments. It turned out that ants do the same, as in many cases and the people processing the seeds too hard, just wait until they germinate. In fact, it is a full-fledged farming, is almost as developed as the famous Philippine ant”farmers” Philidris nagasau.
According to scientists, a large seed can bring as much nutrients as a couple dozen small ones. Revealing in a different time, the stock of such seed must give the ant colony a constant and substantial inflow of food for most of the year.