Cospeciation of ants and plants



Cospeciation, in which both parties of an ecological interaction speciate in parallel with each other, has rarely been reported in biotic associations except the cases for host–parasite interaction. Many tropical plants house ants and thereby gain protection against herbivores. Although these ant–plant symbioses have been regarded as classical cases of coevolved mutualism, no evidence of cospeciation has been documented. The Asian ant–plant association between Crematogaster ants and Macaranga plants is highly species specific and the molecular phylogeny of the ants parallels the plant phylogeny, reflecting history of cospeciation. Evidence is presented that this association has been maintained over the past seven million years. Phylogeographic patterns of 27 ants from two Macaranga species suggest that allopatric cospeciations are still in progress in Asian wet tropics.