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The evolution of plant cultivation by ants

Campbell, L.C.E.; Kiers, E.T.; Chomicki, G.

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Laura Campbell
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

E.T. Kiers


Outside humans, true agriculture was previously thought to be restricted to social insects farming fungus. However, obligate farming of plants by ants was recently discovered in Fiji, prompting a re-examination of plant cultivation by ants. Here, we generate a database of plant cultivation by ants, identify three main types, and show that these interactions evolved primarily for shelter rather than food. We find that plant cultivation evolved at least 65 times independently for crops (~200 plant species), and 15 times in farmer lineages (~37 ant taxa) in the Neotropics and Asia/Australasia. Because of their high evolutionary replication, and variation in partner dependence, these systems are powerful models to unveil the steps in the evolution and ecology of insect agriculture.


Campbell, L., Kiers, E., & Chomicki, G. (2023). The evolution of plant cultivation by ants. Trends in Plant Science, 28(3), 271-282.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Nov 10, 2022
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Mar 22, 2023
Publicly Available Date Apr 24, 2023
Journal Trends in Plant Science
Print ISSN 1360-1385
Publisher Cell Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 3
Pages 271-282
Public URL


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