Ant at extra-floral nectary

Title Info
Common name Ant; Ginger, Wild
Scientific name Ectatomma; Costus
Taxonomic group Formicidae; Costaceae
Source Dan L. Perlman
Ecosystems Forests
Forests Tropical rainforest
Ecological interactions Mutualism
Mutualism Ants and plants
Selection and adaptations Selection
Selection Natural Selection
Behavior Territorial
Organisms Animals; Plants
Animals Insects
Date June 1990 - August 1990
Location Carara Biological Reserve,Costa Rica,North America

Ant at extra-floral nectary, Costa Rica. Ants of many species engage in mutualisms with plants, protecting key plant parts in exchange for food. The mutualism shown here is between an Ectatomma ant and a wild ginger plant. The yellow stripe on the outside of this inflorescence is an extra-floral nectary, or a part of the plant that produces nectar that is not used in attracting pollinators. Ectatomma ants are rather territorial and aggressive and this one is defending her food source (note the drop of nectar in her mandibles). Many different species of ants could be involved in protecting plants of this species; this is not an obligate and tightly co-evolved mutualism such as the Azteca ant and Cecropia tree relationship.