Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Myrmecodia epihpyte

A Myrmecodia epiphyte with large tuber housing tiny ants
Location : Licuala Hill

Large tuber of the Myrmecodia epiphyte
 I was making a new trail at Zone I yesterday when I stumbled upon an epiphyte and as the name implies it was above me. This epiphyte belongs to the 'Myrmecophytes' family which is unique in its ability to accommodate ants in their big tubers. The epihphyte was about four meters above me growing on the tree with its roots built more for grasping the tree trunk than for taking in nourishment from the soil. There are many epiphytic plants in here such as orchids and ferns which occupy a niche in the forest not used by other plants.

The big tubers are normally colonised by ants. Ants and termites are important soil animals involved in the litter decomposition and nutrients recycling.  The tiny ants will scour the forest floor for insects corpses at night.  These they carry on their backs to their arboreal nest.  The dead insects are stored and used as compost by the ants to create their 'fungus garden' which they cultivate within the tuber.  The ants feed on the fungi while the epihphyte uses the nutrients released by the fungal growth.
Ants and termites will scour the forest floor at night for dead insects to bring home to their arboreal nest.