ARANDA RICKERT adriana Marina
Insights into a novel three-partner interaction between ants, coreids (Hemiptera: Coreidae) and extrafloral nectaries: implications for the study of protective mutualisms
ARANDA RICKERT ADRIANA; FRACCHIA SEBASTI�N; YELA NATALIA ; MARAZZI BRIGITTE
Lugar: Berlin; Año: 2017 vol. 11 p. 525 - 536
Extrafloral nectar of plants and honeydew of hemipterans are the common mediators of facultative interactions that involve ants as a mobile strategy of defence. The outcome of these interactions can vary from mutualistic to commensalistic or even antagonistic, depending on the ecological context and the interacting species. Here, we explore a novel, three-partner interaction involving ants, the coreid Dersagrena subfoveolata (Hemiptera) and the extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) bearing plant Senna aphylla (Fabaceae) in semi-arid Northwest Argentina. We surveyed natural areas and conducted ant exclusion experiments, to understand how each pairwise interaction influences the overall outcome among the three interacting parts. The outcome of the interactions was assessed for experimental plants as the reproductive output and herbivore abundances and for coreids as predator abundances. We found that the coreids occurred exclusively on S. aphylla plants and that at least nine ant species interacted with the EFNs as well as with the coreids. Coreid occurrence and abundance depended on ant densities, which in turn, was determined by the presence of actively secreting EFNs. Coreid and ant presence did not influence plant reproductive success, and ants provided to coreids some biotic defence, mainly against vespid wasp predators, but had no effect on non-coreid herbivores. We conclude that the interaction outcome is commensalistic between ants and plants (assuming that EF nectar is not costly for the plant), antagonistic between coreids and plants, and mutualistic between coreids and ants. The sum of all outcomes is net positive effect for ants and coreids, and net slightly negative to neutral for plants.