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Four University of Wyoming undergraduate students, Ema Lujan, Ryen Nielsen, Zoe Short, and Samuel Wicks, recently had their independent research project conducted during a field course in Kenya published in a scientific journal. The study, partially supported by the Biodiversity Institute, led by former UW grad student and current University of Arizona professor Dr. Jesse Alston, explores how an ant-tree mutualism influences songbirds' nest selection. The research reveals that four ant species defend whistling-thorn trees from elephants, and the varying aggressiveness of these "bodyguard" ants influences songbirds' nesting preferences, shedding light on intricate ecological interactions in the African savanna. These ant "bodyguards" vary in their aggressiveness not only to elephants, but to any other critters in close proximity to trees. As such, songbirds go out of their way to nest in trees with the less-aggressive bodyguards, and avoid nesting in trees with more-aggressive bodyguards.
Read more about the month-long field course and the publication at http://wyomingbiodiversity.org/index.php/blogs/mpala-research-center-trips
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