It was as if the gods had gone crazy at the D G Hathramani Sports hall at the Accra sports stadium on Saturday 30th April 2016, when 9th placed new entrants Tesano Spinners club whitewashed 4th placed Ghana Navy in the National Table Tennis League.Parading a youthful team made up of National under 18 star players, victory was to come, but not on a silver platter. Rigorous and dedicated training coupled with astute coaching made the difference.In the first match, Solomon Acquah of Tesano Spinners, who placed 3rd in the national under 18 championship last year walloped experienced Acquah Aikins by 3 games to 1, with scores reading 9-11, 11-6, 13-11, 11-9. Had it not been complacency in their first match where Solomon lost guard to flamboyant receiving of Aikins serves, he would have been home and dry with a straight victory.In the second game, arguably the best player of the Spinners team for the day, Augustine Baidoo of Mfantsipim School, made mincemeat of Allotey Jacob by thrashing him 3-0 with scores reading 11-8, 11-8 and 11-7.Augustine, who won gold with team Ghana in the West African under 13 tournament in 2012 in Ivory Coast, and placed 4th in the national under 18 tournament last year, mesmerized Jacob Allotey with his top spins and backhand loops.The supporters cheered on vociferously as they yearned for more action as the game was an exciting one to watch. Interestingly, Augustine’s twin sister, Augustina, is the national female under 18 champion, and 8th best overall female player in Ghana currently. Realizing that they were 2 games down, the Naval team and in a bid to avoid further onslaught, quickly re-strategized and brought on their most trusted arsenal in the person of Courage Neneve to partner Allotey Jacob in the doubles encounter.They faced arguably the best doubles team in the league thus far in the pair of Godwin Aseku and Solomon Acquah of Tesano Spinners. Godwin ranks number 16 in the under 18 national category.They game started with both teams exhibiting agility on the board and winning points with frequent rallying on the table. The first few points were tight and shared evenly as each team kept a cool head and played with a water-tight defense.In the end, the more agile and youthful team from the Tesano enclave, managed by Mr. Charles Tachie- Menson, walloped the more experienced Navy team 3-0 with scores reading 11-8, 11-7 and 11-7. The Navy team was astonished!The frown and despair on the faces of the naval team summed up their disappointment. The 5th week of matches will take place on Saturday 7th May 2016 at the D G Hathramani Sports Hall at the Accra Sports stadium at 9am with Tesano Spinners battling it out with Medina Stars and Koforidua White Loopers.The game to watch will be the match between Tesano Spinners and White Loopers, as Loopers have in their camp the National under 18 champion Emmanuel Ofori and 2nd ranked under 18 player Kojo Godwin as their top seeds.Spinners also have in their camp Solomon Acquah and Augustine Baidoo who are currently the nation’s 3rd and 4th best under 18 players. This match will be mouth-watering and a clash fit for the gods.According to captain of the Tesano Spinners, Nathaniel Kwesi Somuah, his team is leaving no stone unturned as they prepare for this “battle royale” on Saturday.PHOTO CREDIT: BREAKTHROUGH PICTURES –Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @JoySportsGH. Our hashtag is #JoySports
The swollen thorns house ants that help protect acacia trees from elephants. The fourth native species, Tetraponera penzigi, however, has a passive-aggressive strategy for monopolizing the trees it inhabits. With no taste for nectar, T. penzigi destroys the nectaries, reducing the appeal of the tree to other species. (T. penzigi harvests fungal spores and pollen and farms fungus.) And unlike Crematogaster, when T. penzigi are attacked, they retreat into the swollen thorns and defend them with stingers.Regardless of how they fight each other, all the species will defend the tree from elephants and other herbivores. And thus it has been for millennia. But about 4 years ago, researchers in central Kenya became aware of the arrival of the bigheaded ant (Pheidole megacephala). No one knows where the bigheaded ant originally came from, perhaps southern Africa or Madagascar. But it’s clear that it is a persistent and highly successful invader. Living in supercolonies that cooperate, they have devastated all manner of insects on several continents. “Anything they can attack, they will destroy,” says Todd Palmer, an ecologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.To understand the threat to the native ants, Palmer and colleagues wanted to witness an attack on acacia trees. They cut down 16 small trees, each inhabited by a single species of native ant, from a part of the savanna not yet invaded. Then they trucked the trees—ants and all—to the Mpala Research Center in central Kenya, which has a high density of bigheaded ants.Soon, columns of bigheaded ants streamed into the trees. Crematogaster ants sent an alarm, calling other ants out of the swollen thorns. Although Crematogaster ants are five times larger than bigheaded ants, they were overwhelmed within an hour or two. Swarms of attackers grabbed Crematogaster ants by the legs, pulling them spread-eagle and cutting them up. As the Crematogaster troops fell, the invasion front moved up the trees. “The bigheaded ants just keep coming,” Palmer says. “They are unstoppable.” When bigheaded ants reached the Crematogaster nests inside the swollen thorns, they pulled out the brood and brought them back to their own nests. There, they fed them to their larvae.T. penzigi fared better. They hastily retreated into the swollen thorns, staying inside for up to a month. If caught outside, they flattened themselves and froze. Attacking ants seemed to not recognize them as ants, Palmer says, perhaps because of a chemical camouflage. “It’s the most timid ant that can withstand the battle,” he says. They may even profit: It seems that the extirpation of the three species of Crematogaster opens up other trees that T. penzigi can sneak into; Palmer and colleagues found a much higher density of T. penzigi where the bigheaded ants had invaded, they report in an article posted online in Ecology. The same behaviors were seen in laboratory experiments with the various species. “The study itself proved far more interesting than I dared expect, with our staged ant battles reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings battle scenes,” says first author Corinna Riginos, a research ecologist at the Teton Research Institute of Teton Science Schools, Jackson, Wyoming, who designed the study. Two species of Crematogaster fight each other for possession of an acacia tree. Rob Pringle Todd Palmer Call it Game of Thorns. A prickly tree that grows in the clay-rich soils of East Africa recruits stinging ants to defend itself from gnawing giraffes and marauding bull elephants. In return, the trees provide nectar and shelter—swollen thorns—for the insects. The rewards are so attractive that, in a drama reminiscent of a medieval fantasy TV show, four native ant species battle each other to inhabit the trees. But according to a new study, this warring kingdom is under siege by an even more violent outsider. The consequences could affect elephants, other large wildlife, and perhaps the future of iconic reserves such as Serengeti National Park.The tree in question is called the whistling thorn acacia (Acacia drepanolobium). These trees have evolved a mutualistic relationship with native ants. When herbivores try to strip away its leaves or moody elephants attempt to rip off branches, the ants rush out of their arboreal homes to bite and sting the threatening animal. Elephants have such an aversion to the ants that they will avoid eating the acacia, which helps prevent the woody savanna from becoming a grassland.The ecology of this system is fascinating. The four species of native ants compete ferociously with each other to occupy each tree. Three species, in the genus Crematogaster, feast on nectar that the tree produces for them in specialized organs called nectaries. Jacked up on sugar, they will rush to fight any foreign ant, curling around it and clenching the abdomen in a death grip with their bodies.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) The invasion could have consequences beyond the fate of the native ants. Crematogaster do the best job defending acacia trees. T. penzigi is less effective, and the bigheaded ants won’t fight anything much bigger than a human thumb. Without native ants to guard them, Riginos and Palmer wondered, would acacia trees suffer more harm from elephants?They examined three sites invaded by the bigheaded ants and found five times as many acacia trees with moderate or worse damage from elephants, relative to uninvaded sites. The mutualistic relationship between the ants and the acacia, by mediating elephant damage, is a key influence on the amount of tree cover in the savanna. So the breakdown of the relationship is a significant threat to a landscape that includes Serengeti, Maasai Mara, and Nairobi national parks, Palmer says. “It is a substantial effect they are seeing,” says Han Olff, an ecosystem ecologist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands who was not involved in the research.The influence of the bigheaded ant is unlikely to be apocalyptic or vast, though. Johan du Toit, an ecologist at Utah State University in Logan—who was not involved in the paper—says that the consequence of losing these native ant species will likely be limited to the area where this acacia species is dominant and elephant are abundant, particularly Kenya and Tanzania. “Even for this acacia, losing the ants doesn’t mean it will be completely eaten up by elephants,” he says. “It’s a pretty resilient tree.” Olff adds that it can be difficult to predict exactly how the ecosystem will respond to the perturbation.The next step, Palmer says, is to look at how this invasion affects landscapes where various kinds of wildlife are present or absent. It’s possible that when elephants are not around, the trees may actually benefit from an invasion by the bigheaded ant, because they wouldn’t need to produce nectar for native species and could use the energy to grow instead.The key message is the need to improve biosecurity to prevent such invasions, says Lori Lach, a community ecologist at James Cook University, Cairns, in Australia. “We can’t be complacent about invasive ant spread, even of species that have mostly fallen off the radar of active management around the world,” she says. “Our best chance at preventing detrimental effects by invasive ants is by increasing investment in biosecurity and by detecting and destroying them at borders.”*Update, 8 September, 3:05 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Corinna Riginos played the primary role in the research.