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Hanging Around in the Rainforest

Insect biologist Elsa Youngsteadt explains to Curiouser & Curiouser host Jai Ranganathan why tropical ants create gardens up in trees.

Biologists are fascinated by tropical rainforests partially because they contain all sorts of biological oddities found nowhere else on earth. One example in the Amazon are ant-gardens, which are plants growing out of ant nests that are attached to vines and trees, resembling nothing so much as potted plants hanging from a ceiling.

These natural pots and the plants that grow in them are very common in the rainforest and are entirely brought together by ants, but why? Dr. Elsa Youngsteadt, an insect biologist at Sigma Xi, discusses the careful ant engineering that goes into ant-gardens.