Amazonian Frog Has Its Own Ant Repellent

Science and Children, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Amazonian Frog Has Its Own Ant Repellent


Special chemicals covering the skin of a tiny yellow-striped Amazonian frog provide a protective shield that wards off leaf-cutting ants, allowing it to live comfortably among them. The ants do not bite it but will quite aggressively attack all other types of frogs or other animals that cross their path.

This type of chemical-based mimicry and camouflage is often used by parasitic invertebrates and allows them to live unhindered within the protective confines of social insect Chemicals covering the skin of the Amazonian frog L. lineatus may allow for the frog and ants to coexist. colonies. However, the strategy is not often seen in vertebrates, much less among frogs, and is only known in two other African frog species.

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Lithodytes lineatus is a South American frog that is mainly found in the Amazon region. It shelters, breeds, and builds its nest peacefully amid leaf-cutting ants of the genus Atta without ever being attacked by them.

Leaf-cutting ants use chemical odors, such as pheromones, to recognize and communicate with members of their colony. Barros' team therefore speculated that the skin of L. lineatus must also be covered with a similar type of chemical that makes leaf-cutting ants recognize them as "friendly" and cheats them into allowing the frog into their midst. …

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