Human Interest

‘Babysitter’ ant among 139 new species classified in Australia

Sydney, Australia, Aug 9 (EFE).- An Australian ant that acts as a “babysitter” for the caterpillar of the Bulloak jewel butterfly, a winged insect in danger of extinction, is part of 139 new animal and plant species classified by scientists in the country, government sources reported Tuesday.

The Australian government’s scientific research agency said in a statement that the newly named Anonychomyrma inclinata ant, already known to scientists and the community, plays a “very special” role in protection of the fragile ecosystem of the country.

It said this “babysitter” ant lives in a symbiotic relationship with the caterpillar of the Bulloak’s Hypochrysops piceatus jewel butterfly, the second rarest butterfly in Australia and which is on the endangered species list.

Both species live under the bark of the Bulloak tree (Allocasuarina luehmannii), found in the forested areas of northeastern Australia and protects caterpillars from the blazing sun and predators such as flies, which try to incubate their eggs on their bodies.

In this habitat, the ants are responsible for moving the caterpillars at night to the soft leaves of the bulloak tree, the only food they eat, David Yeates, an entomologist at the agency, said.

In exchange for this service, these ants “receive a sugary gift (honeydew secretion) from the caterpillars,” Yeates said in a statement.

In addition to this ant, Australian scientists have named and classified 116 other insects in the last year, four species of fish, a frog, three plants, as well as 14 invertebrates, including eleven jumping spiders, a millipede, a land, and a sea fluke that was inside a fish.

With only 25 percent of Australian species known to science, scientific names are vital to better understanding the country’s vast ecosystems, which has many endemic and world-unique animals and plants, the agency said. EFE


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