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Giant Forest Ants (Dinomyrmex gigas) and lanternflies (Pyrops cultellatus) | by cclborneo
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Giant Forest Ants (Dinomyrmex gigas) and lanternflies (Pyrops cultellatus)

Few things exemplify the incredible complexity of rainforest ecosystems more than that of mutualisms between species. Here, a group of Giant Forest Ants (Dinomyrmex gigas) tend to a pair of lanternflies (Pyrops cultellatus), a relationship that has a net benefit for both species. The lanternflies, feeding directly from the phloem of the tree with their piercing straw-like mouthparts, harvest much more sugar-rich fluid than they actually need; the excess being excreted intermittently as a squirt of honeydew droplets from their abdomen. The ants position themselves directly behind and below the lanternflies and intercept these droplets with their heads, then consume the fluid and share it with their nestmates. In return, the ants guard the lanternflies and will ferociously attack any potential threat. Sarawak, Malaysia (Borneo).

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Taken on August 27, 2018