Researchers in Africa have determined that after everything people have tried to keep elephants away from their crops, ants may be the best plant defenders:
Researchers Todd Palmer at the University of Florida and Jacob Goheen at the University of Wyoming observed the eating patterns of elephants on Kenyan savannas and stumbled upon an incredible anomaly: the lumbering mammals plowed through everything that they encountered, save for one type of tree (Acacia drepanolobium) that was covered in ants.
“We found that the elephants like to eat the ant-plants just as much as they like to eat their favorite tree species, and that when either tree species had ants on them, the elephants avoided those trees like a kid avoids broccoli,” Palmer explained to Discovery News.
Once again, ants playing a surprising role in the larger world around them.
“These tiny ants are actually major ecosystem players, capable of regulating woody plant biomass accumulation in a savanna, and stabilizing the tree population against catastrophic damage by elephants,” Palmer said.