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Forget mice, elephants intimidated by ants

Swarms on acacia trees keep the mighty beasts at bay

LARAMIE, Wyoming — To get an elephant to mind its manners, call an ant.

Ants living in whistling-thorn acacia trees on the African savanna may weigh only 3 milligrams, but they can protect their trees from being demolished by elephants weighing a billion times more, biologist Jacob Goheen reported June 12 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists.

The elephants still eat a bit of acacia, but overall the ants have such a strong deterrent effect that they have kept a whole acacia landscape in Kenya intact despite rising numbers of elephants, said Goheen, of the University of British Columbia in Canada.

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