Skip to Main Content
Field experiments show contradictory short- and long-term myrmecochorous plant impacts on seed-dispersing antsAuthor(s): Robert J. Warren; Katherine J. Elliott; Itamar Giladi; Joshua R. King; Mark A. Bradford
Source: Ecological Entomology
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Southern Research Station
Download Publication (312.0 KB)
- Some interactions previously describe as mutualistic were revealed to be commensal or parasitic in subsequent investigations. Ant-mediated seed dispersal has been describe as a mutualism for more than a century; however, recent research suggests that it may be commensal or parasitic. Plants demonstrably benefit from ant-mediated seed dispersal, although there is little evidence available to demonstrate that the interaction benefits long-term ant fitness.
- Field experiments were conducted in temperate North America focused on a key seed-dispersing ant. All herbaceous plants were removed from a forest understorey for 13 years, and supplemented ant colonies with large elaiosome-bearing seeds aiming to examine potential long-and short-term myrmecochorous plant benefits for the ants.
- If elaiosome-bearing seeds benefit ants, suggesting a mutualistic relationship, it is expected that there would be greater worker and/or alate abundance and greater fat reserves (colony lipid content) with seed supplementation (short-term) and in areas with high understorey herb abundance.
- Short-term seed supplementation of ant colonies did not result in an increase with respect to numbers or fat stores, although it did prompt the production of colony sexuals, which is a potential fitness benefit. In the long term, however, there was no positive effect on the ants and, instead, there were negative effects because the removal of elaiosome-bearing plants corresponded with greater colony health.
- The data obtained in the present study suggest that the ant-plant interaction ranged from occasionally beneficial to neutral to overall negative for the ant partner. Such results did not support considering the interaction as a mutualism. Collectively, the data suggest the need to reconsider the nature of the relationship between these ants and plants.
- You may send email to email@example.com to request a hard copy of this publication.
- (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationWarren, Robert J.; Elliott, Katherine J.; Giladi, Itamar; King, Joshua R.; Bradford, Mark A. 2018. Field experiments show contradictory short- and long-term myrmecochorous plant impacts on seed-dispersing ants. Ecological Entomology. 21: 411-. https://doi.org/10.1111/een.12666.
KeywordsAnimal-plant interactions, Aphaenogaster, commensalism, dispersal, herbaceous, mutualism, species interactions, woodlawn
- Competition as a mechanism structuring mutualisms
- Vectors, viscin, and Viscaceae: mistletoes as parasites, mutualists, and resources.
- The evolution of parasitic and mutualistic plant–virus symbioses through transmission-virulence trade-offs
XML: View XML