ARANDA RICKERT adriana Marina
Pogonomyrmex cunicularius as the keystone disperser of elaiosome-bearing Jatropha excisa seeds in semi-arid Argentina
ARANDA RICKERT ADRIANA; FRACCHIA, SEBASTIÁN
ENTOMOLOGIA EXPERIMENTALIS ET APPLICATA
WILEY-BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, INC
Lugar: Amsterdam; Año: 2011 vol. 139 p. 91 - 102
Myrmecochory or seed dispersal by ants is often described as a diffuse mutualism, because many of the ant species that function as partners are considered to be similar in terms of the frequency and consequences of their interactions. In this work, we test this assumption by conducting ant community surveys and seed removal experiments in six study sites located within a semi-arid region of northwest Argentina. At each site, we characterized the ant assemblage that interacted with the seeds of Jatropha excisa Griseb. (Euphorbiaceae), an ant-dispersed native shrub. Our results demonstrate that seed removal was dominated by one species, Pogonomyrmex cunicularius Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae), which was responsible of 84% of the observed seed removal events.Although several ant species were attracted to the elaiosome-bearing seeds of J. excisa, seed removal did not depend on ant community composition (species richness and ant activity) but was significantly influenced by the abundance of P. cunicularius. Its physical, behavioral, and ecological attributes are common with other ant species that have been characterized as keystone seed dispersers in other regions of the world. Nest feeding with marked seeds revealed that once P. cunicularius ants consume the elaiosomes, seeds are left inside the nests undamaged and at an appropriate depth for emergence. Our results support the hypothesis that myrmecochory is often an unevenly diffuse mutualism (i.e., one partner species is particularly important) and that at a local scale P. cunicularius is the keystone seed disperser of J. excisa.