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Attini, Attine
Members of the myrmicine tribe (a genus of ants) that share with macrotermitine (large) termites and certain wood-boring beetles the sophisticated habit of cultivating and eating fungi.

Besides their unique behavior and the many peculiar behavioral and physiological changes associated with it, the Attini are distinguished from other ants by an unusual combination of anatomical traits, including the shape of the antennal segments; a less-than-absolute tendency toward hard, spinose, or tuberculate bodies, and a proportionately large, casement-like first gastral segment.

Many of the species of attines gather pieces of fresh leaves and flowers to nourish the fungus gardens. As fresh leaves and other plant cuttings are brought into the nest, they are subjected to a process of degradation before being inserted into the garden substratum.

The ants chew the fragments along the edges until the pieces become wet and pulpy, sometimes adding a droplet of clear anal liquid to the surface.

Finally, the ants pluck tufts of mycelia (vegetative parts of fungi) from other parts of the garden and plant them on the newly formed portions of the substratum.

—A compilation of excerpts from
The Ants by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson;
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press;
Cambridge, Massachusetts; 1990; page 596.
This entry is located in the following unit: Ant and Related Entomology Terms (page 4)