Posted by Jim: Here’s another insect nitrogen story – leafcutter ants solve their low-N leaf problem by having N-fixing microbes in their gardens. This reminds me of discussions I had with the late Professor Abe (Kyoto University) in 1997. Abe discovered that termites solve their N problem by harboring N-fixing bacteria in their guts. I congratulated him on his terrific work and then asked him: ” So how do the termites get their phosphorus?” Since his work was entirely focused on N, he didn’t really know.
Anyway, I think that in such cases the answer is usually “very slowly”.
I’d ask the same question of Torrice et al.: ‘Where do the leafcutters get their P?” The answer is likely the same. Rebecca Clark here at ASU is doing her PhD on the ES of leafcutter ants. I hope she’ll have the answer!