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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Animal Note

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports that loud noise can damage more than just children's hearing.


VILLIGER: We're heading into summer, and for gardeners that means the long battle against weeds looms ahead. If you're the type who likes to lean back on his heels after a long weeding session and take solace in the idea that only a superior human being could tend a garden so well, think again. You have a serious rival in fungus-growing ants. Fungus may not be your crop of choice, but for these ants it's vital. They plant the fungus in their nests to digest leaves they harvest from outside. Then the ants feast on the fungus. The system works as long as weeds don't take over. And for the first time, scientists have closely examined the ants' behavioral weed-whacking techniques. They scrape their mouths over an area contaminated with foreign spores and collect them for disposal before systematically moving on to the next spot. If the weed fungus gains a stronger hold, an ant will grab a piece with his mouth and start rocking side to side to loosen its grip. Once the offending lump is dislodged, other ants quickly court it away to the dump. It looks like ants use a complementary blend of chemistry and elbow grease to keep weed invaders at bay. And really, it should come as no surprise that ants have some pretty sophisticated gardening techniques. They've been farming for about 50 million years. That's this week's animal note. I'm Maggie Villiger.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

(Music up and under: Visions of Escaflowne, "Ask the Owl")



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