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Sat Jan 2, 2016, 11:16 PM

Gorgeous Images Reveal Parasitic Plant in 3-Way Symbiotic Relationship

Gorgeous Images Reveal Parasitic Plant in 3-Way Symbiotic Relationship

by Tia Ghose, Senior Writer | December 30, 2015 10:12am ET

Scientists have found a bizarre food triangle between three different organisms lurking deep in the Peruvian Amazon.

The cast of characters includes a yellow parasitic plant that bursts forth like boils from tree bark, a caterpillar that feeds on that plant, and an ant that drinks the sweet liquid that the caterpillar produces in a special gland near its neck. And at least one of these critters seems to have evolved specific adaptations that allow it to better take advantage of this complex relationship. (See Images of the Strange Amazon Love Triangle)

"It's really a weird relationship, I've never seen anything like it before," said Aaron Pomerantz, an entomologist who works with a rainforest expedition company at the Refugio Amazonas near the Tambopata Research Center in Peru.

Tree boils?

Pomerantz was walking in the jungle when he spied strange, yellow bulbs that looked almost like dot candy bursting from a tree trunk. When he took a closer look, he realized that a caterpillar was feeding on the yellow bulbs.


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