Imprimir Republish


Underground garden

Leaf-cutter ants are gardeners. They take cuttings of leaves and flowers back to their anthills and use them to grow the fungus that they then consume. A powerful microscope is needed to see this tiny garden, and in the image above, a fluorescent dye adds a reddish hue. “The aim was to see the fungi growing from the leaf fragments, but we found that the plant naturally produces the same fluorescence,” says biologist Mariana Barcoto. The effect is beautiful, coloring the characteristic rings of the leaves (known as the stomata, through which they breathe) and the fungal hyphae, which have a filament-like appearance.

Image submitted by Mariana Barcoto, a PhD student at the Fungal Ecology and Systematics Laboratory (LESF) of São Paulo State University (UNESP), Rio Claro campus