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Acacia Trees Use Ants To Defend Against Elephants

An unusual partnership is happening on the African plain. The whistling-thorn acacia tree is using ants to defend against elephant attacks.

acacia tree and ants

Photo: Garrett and Kitty Wilkin (Flickr)

The ants live in the acacia tree and help defend it against elephant attacks.

On the African plain, only the strongest survive. So, it is understandable when certain species work together to survive the harsh conditions.

Whistling-Thorn Acacia Tree

The whistling-thorn acacia tree is just one example of this. The tree is home to hundreds of thousands of ants that help protect it against elephant attacks.

Now, this might seem silly.

How Can Tiny, Weak Ants Defend An Entire Tree?

Elephants are strong enough to destroy the tree but an elephant’s size is not enough to protect it from a mass attack of ants.

The defenders bite and sting the entire elephant in seconds. Scientists are learning that just the presence of the ants is enough to deter an elephant.

LISTEN: A Moment of Science: Acacias, Ants And Elephants

Read More: How Acacia Trees Prevent Elephant Attacks: With Armies of Ants (Discover)

Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

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