Tuesday, January 5, 2016

#98 Acacia Trees and Ants

Gardening is thought of as a skill that requires pretty advanced intelligence. Humans in the whole history of evolution did not start to garden until about 10,000BC. [1]

This Proof for God is about the symbiotic relationship between certain trees and certain types of ants. In particular I want to talk about the Central and South American Bull-Horn Acacia tree and the Pseudomyrmex ant, which is a genus of stinging, wasp-like ants.

“Many species of acacia tress that are deficient in chemical defenses have developed a mutualistic relationship with stinging ants in which protection is exchanged for nutrients and a home. Acacia trees and their symbiotic partner can be found all over the world in temperate, desert, and tropical regions, especially since some species of acacia trees are highly invasive. They reach sexual maturity typically three years after germination, and the adult trees can be used for industrial or decorative purposes. During development, the acacia trees form symbiotic relationships with ants to promote healthy growth for both the ant and the tree. Not only are the trees vigorously protected, but they also provide ants and their larvae a ready home and available nutrients.” [2]

“Ant-plant mutualism is not rare with at least 100 other species of plants and ants exhibiting this relationship.” [3].

Note that the author of the above quote talks about the plant and ants as if they are intelligently discussing with each other how they are going to form a mutually beneficial partnership. How come we humans can’t form a relationship with a plant if an ant can do it? Or how come we can’t form a nice relationship with a bunch of ants if a plant can do it?

As I explain below what amazing things scientists have discovered about this relationship, you will see that the Theory of Evolution has no plausible explanation for its existence. Even if one such implausible relationship could have evolved, how could 100 totally distinct and unique types of plant to ant relationships evolve without any connection to each other?

An important point to make in the beginning is that the Bull-Horn Acacia tree cannot survive without the help of the ants. In experiments where the ants were taken off the tree, the tree died within two to fifteen months. “In studying this amazing relationship, researchers removed the ants from some of these trees. Within two to fifteen months the tree was dead. Without the ants' care, animals eat off all the leaves and surrounding plants overrun it.” [4]

So without help from the ants, there could not be any Bull-Horn Acacia trees. So how could the trees ever have evolved without the ants already there to take care of them? But how did the ants learn how to take care of these particular trees before the trees existed? Gardening the trees would have to have evolved too. It would take a long process of learning for the ants, if ants can even learn like that. Taking care of the Acacia trees is very, very complicated as we shall see.

If you have two minutes, check out this National Geographic video about a similar Acacia tree and its ants. I think you will be amazed:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xm2qdxVVRm4

In this symbiotic relationship, let’s look first at what the Acacia tree does for the ants. There is a lot of the trademark of intelligence here and if you don’t accept that there is a God, then you have to think it is the tree that has intelligence or else it is just some accidental process.

“The mutualistic relationship is established when a newly mated queen is attracted to a tree by its odor and starts nesting inside the large, hollow acacia thorns. She lays 15-20 eggs to produce the first generation of workers. As the colony grows, more thorns become inhabited, and when the colony reaches around 400 individuals, the ants start to protect the plant.” [5]

Scientists know that the queen ant can smell an Acacia tree. Think of all the evolution that would have to go into an ant being able to smell, let alone being able to recognize a particular tree as the one that would provide a good place to start a nest.

The Acacia tree provides a wonderful place for ants to build their nests. The ants can drill a hole into the horns of the plant that are hollow inside and this makes a perfect place for a nest. Since the horns are fairly small, the ants will make nests in the horns all over the tree.

The Acacia tree actually has special glands on their stems which secrete a carbohydrate-rich, sweet nectar that is very nutritious for the ants. If that gland evolved through a slow and gradual process and the nectar that is secreted then also had to evolve by a slow and gradual process, don’t you think the ants would find a different source of nutrition instead of waiting around? Evolutionists have amazing imaginations, but I’d like to see them point out any actual plant that has ever evolved something like this on its own in the thousands of years that humans have been watching plants. It’s never been seen, but still they believe in evolution.

The Acacia tree also produces what are called “Beltian bodies” on the tips of its leaflets. These Beltian bodies are made of a protein-lipid which doesn’t seem to have any other use or value except for the ants to feed their larvae. [6] The Beltian bodies seem to be perfect for that single purpose. Look at the picture below of Beltian bodies and imagine the evolution that had to take place for the tree to produce such a “fruit”. Trees live a long time. They would have to produce seeds, which grow up, and then produce new seeds. How many generations would it take in a slow and gradual process of tree after tree until the Beltian bodies were perfected. Remember that the Beltian bodies give no benefit at all to the tree except to attract the ants by providing the perfect nutrients for their larvae. Remember that without the ants, the trees mostly die so getting many generations of trees to evolve implies that the ants were always there.

That’s already too incredible for evolution. But now let’s take a look at what the ants do for the tree.

If a plant eating animal or insect comes along that will harm the Acacia tree, the ants release a pheromone which is a nasty odor and it sounds the alarm. All of them rush out to attack. They will bite and sting any intruder very severely, usually driving them away.

However, the ants are uniquely selective. If a Praying Mantis or a spider comes along, which actually can benefit the Acacia by eating insect pests, the ants leave them alone. Now how could they have ever evolved that type of selectivity? Ants also will not bother the bees that pollinate the tree.

Another thing that the ants do for the tree is keep away vines and other plants. The ants will chew through any vines that come on their tree or its leaves, thus getting rid of any threat. The ants seem to even know that the tree needs sunlight and will remove leaves of other trees that are obstructing the sunlight.

"According to Daniel Janzen, livestock can apparently smell the pheromone and avoid these acacias day and night. Getting stung in the mouth and tongue is an effective deterrent to browsing on the tender foliage. In addition to protecting V. conigera (Acacia) from leaf-cutting ants and other unwanted herbivores, the ants also clear away invasive seedlings around the base of the tree that might overgrow it and block out vital sunlight." [7]

And here is a very amazing fact that was discovered recently, the ants actually help prevent bacteria problems on the leaf surfaces. Scientists have found that it is likely something on the legs of the ants that yields the antibacterial benefit. Evolutionists are going to have a problem explaining how something like that evolved.

"Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, have now found that ants also keep harmful leaf pathogens in check. The presence of ants greatly reduces bacterial abundance on surfaces of leaves and has a visibly positive effect on plant health...

"Detailed analysis of the bacterial composition on the surfaces of the leaves suggested that the presence of mutualistic ants changed the bacterial populations and reduced harmful pathogens.
"How antimicrobial protection is transferred from ants to plant is still unclear." [8]

Is that convincing enough that this relationship was designed and not evolved? How about one more point. Researchers have discovered that the tree secrets some repellent, probably from its pollen, that keeps the ants away. This maximizes the reproduction of the seeds of the tree because the ants don’t run over them and disturb their growth. But the secretion eventually wears off about the time that the fertilization has already taken place.  So now the ants will come around and they will perform their duty of protecting the leaves and tree again. [9]

No human being could design something with this chemical and biological sophistication.

There must be God.
[1] History of Farming, http://quatr.us/economy/farming/

[2] Themes of Parasitology: Relationship Advice: Acacia Trees and Ants http://bio390parasitology.blogspot.com/2012/03/relationship-advice-acacia-trees-and.html

[3] Piper, Ross. Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. 1-3. Print.

[4] Bartz, Paul, "Ants who garden", http://www.creationmoments.com/content/ants-who-garden

[5] Themes of Parasitology: Relationship Advice: Acacia Trees and Ants http://bio390parasitology.blogspot.com/2012/03/relationship-advice-acacia-trees-and.html

[7] Wikipedia, "Vachellia cornigera", (Bullhorn Acacia), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vachellia_cornigera

[8] Wikipedia, "Vachellia cornigera", (Bullhorn Acacia), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vachellia_cornigera

[9] McDaniel College, "Ant-acacia mutualism", http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/Biology/eco/mut/mutualism.html

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