Friday, May 18, 2007

Today's New Word...Myrmecophile

I left a comment over at 3 Quarks and got this delightful reply.

Since I am a diehard myrmecophile, your story was fascinating.

I never heard of one either...
Wonderful world we live in!

Look at Wikipedia's article.

A myrmecophile is an organism that lives in association with ants. Myrmecophily literally means ant-loving and refers to the habits of species that have mutualistic associations with ants.Such associations are best known in the butterflies of the family Lycaenidae but many non-insect species are also considered myrmecophilous or semi-myrmecophilous.

The myrmecophile's role varies; many consume the ants' leftover food, dead ants or
larvae, or types of fungi growing in the nest. The first major work in cataloguing British myrmecophiles was done by Horace Donisthorpe in his 1927 book The Guests of British Ants.

Myrmecophilous associations are also seen in various other insects such as aphids, hoppers and also in some arachnids such as mites. These associations can be either obligate or facultative depending on whether the association is necessary for survival or merely of additional benefit.


Ant-butterfly interactions are particularly well studied. The association is believed to reduce the parasitization of the butterfly caterpillars. These associations involve nectar production by specialized organs on the caterpillars and communication through sound and vibrations.

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