1932

Abstract

The interactions between ants and certain sap-feeding insects in the order Hemiptera are classic examples of food-for-protection mutualisms. In these associations, herbivorous hemipterans use a highly specialized, straw-like mouthpart to consume sap directly from plant phloem and xylem and, as a result, excrete a sugar-rich waste product called honeydew. Ant foragers use specialized adaptations to collect and share honeydew with nestmates and, in exchange, protect hemipterans against predators. The two key innovations underlying this interaction—hemipteran sap feeding and ant harvesting of honeydew—have driven the evolutionary success and ecological dominance of ants. These interactions also carry unique costs and benefits for each partner and are highly context dependent. Understanding the factors mediating this mutualism is critical, as these interactions have broader ecological consequences for the natural and agricultural ecosystems in which they are embedded.

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2022-11-02
2024-04-20
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