Category: Agriculture

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Cultivating crops, often as monocultures, weeding, applying fertilizer and if necessary herbicides or other protective treatments, followed by harvesting is one of the most familiar of human activities. Did you know, however, that agriculture has developed independently at least four times in human societies?

Even more remarkable than the repeated evolution of agriculture in humans, ants and termites have also each evolved agriculture independently, with the ant system having astonishing similarities to the workings of our own farms and fields. Ants and termites are not the only insects to maintain fungal gardens; beetles (most famously the ambrosia beetles), gall midges and wood wasps also cultivate fungi as a source of food. Further examples of agriculture can be found among herbivorous animals: algal fields are farmed by several species of damselfish, marine worms and snails, while dugongs regularly crop fields of seagrass.

A different type of agriculture-related convergence poses a considerable problem to human farmers: insects, fungi and weeds are constantly acquiring resistance to pesticides. Resistance to insecticides, fungicides or herbicides has occurred many times independently, each time apparently through only a few changes in the same key amino acids.

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Topic Title Teaser text Availablity
Agriculture in marine polychaete annelids

Some polychaetes attach pieces of algae to their dwelling tube. Just for decoration? No, but for a much more substantial (and convergent) benefit...

Agriculture in wood wasps

The most famous hymenopteran farmers are, without doubt, the attine ants. Rightly so, but they are not the only ones...

Agriculture in dugongs

When you think of grazing mammals, you might envisage large herds of antelopes roaming African savannahs. Did you know that there is an equivalent in the ocean, feeding on seagrass?

Agriculture in gall midges (Diptera)

Flies, fungi, farming - sounds interesting? Read on if you want to learn about some rather different gall midges...

Agriculture in beetles

Think of weevils and most likely you'll think of spoiled food. But some weevils have turned to farming...

Agriculture in aquatic snails

Termites and ants are famous for tending fungal gardens, but did you know that also a marine snail farms a fungus? And this is not the only example of agriculture in this group…

Agriculture in damselfish

Don’t be tempted to think human agriculture is unique. On many coral rocks, there are very similar things going on…

Evolution of fungicide resistance

Just as with insecticides, we see both evolution in action and also striking instances of convergence where resistance is acquired independently

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Evolution of herbicide resistance

Unfortunately, just as in insecticides, resistance rapidly develops and is not only an excellent example of evolution in action, but also is strikingly convergent.

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Evolution of insecticide resistance

There are several varieties of insecticide, and each one is designed to knock out some metabolic or physiological capability of the insect, targeting a specific system.

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Eusociality and agriculture in termites

Distinct hexamerins affect key growth hormones and help to regulate which caste type (e.g. worker or soldier) each individual develops into.

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Agriculture: from ants to dugongs

Human farmers tending their fields are a familiar sight. But don't forget about those fungus-farming termites or the fish with a garden of algae…

Beetles: insights into convergence

The beetles are probably the most diverse animal group on earth, so it is not at all surprising that they provide many fascinating insights into convergence.

Agriculture in ants: leaf-cutters (attines) and non-attines

In some species, special squads leave the nest early each day, ascend the tree-trunks and then spend hours cutting out pieces of leaf that are dropped to other units on the ground.

Ants: insights into convergence

Trap-jaws, silk and agriculture – just a few examples of convergence in the arguably most successful group of insects, the ants…