Questions for Ants on guard


Before reading:

1.    Have you ever read about, or been bitten by, red fire ants? They bite and sting. Why do you think they do this?

2.    List some organisms that make their homes on plants. Provide reasons why they might choose to do so.


During reading:

1.    What is a mandible?

2.    How do acacia trees benefit from hosting acacia ants?

3.    Define symbiosis.

4.    Who benefits in a mutualistic relationship?

5.    Describe the benefits tangarana trees derive from ants.

6.    In the experiments carried out by Jorge Vivanco’s team, how did the ants respond to plants other than their host plant?

7.    Describe a pitcher plant.

8.    How do mosquito and fly larvae cheat pitcher plants out of nutrients?

9.    How are some of those nutrients returned to the plant, eventually?

10.Why could you consider an orb-weaver spider a freeloader?

11.Why do orb-weaver spiders hang from a thread when acacia ants grow agitated?

After reading:

1.    Imagine diving ants didn’t live on pitcher plants. Describe in detail one possible outcome for the plant.

2.    In the tropics, ants can prune back the vegetation surrounding tangarana trees, creating clearings in the forest. That benefits the trees and the ants that feed upon the tree. Can you think of a third organism that might exploit the mutualistic relationship shared by the tree and ant? How could it do so?


1.    Think of a pest in or around your home you tried to eliminate (or at least thought of eliminating). How might your actions affect other living things that depend on that pest for survival?

2.    Dogs and people have lived alongside each other for thousands of years. Is our relationship mutualistic? Explain your answer, listing any benefits one or both species might derive from the relationship.