ARANDA RICKERT adriana Marina
Are subordinate ants the best seed dispersers? Linking dominance hierarchies and seed dispersal ability in myrmecochory interactions
ARANDA RICKERT ADRIANA; FRACCHIA SEBASTIÁN
Lugar: Helsinki; Año: 2011 p. 1 - 10
True myrmecochory involves the dispersal of elaiosome-bearing seeds by ants. Between the guild of ants that are attracted to these seeds, only a few of them will act as effective dispersers, that is, transporting the seeds to suitable sites (the nests) for germination and plant establishment.Ant communities are known to be highly hierarchical, and subordinate ants quickly deliver resources to their nest rather than consuming it on-site, thereby avoiding encounters with more dominant species. As a result of a series of studies that were carried out during summer insemi-arid Northwest Argentina, we have found that the most important seed disperser of the myrmecochorous plant Jatropha excisa Griseb. (Euphorbiaceae), the ant Pogonomyrmex cunicularius pencosensis Forel, was the most subordinate species during interspecific interactions.The daily timing of release of the J. excisa seeds through ballistic dispersal increased their probability of being removed by the highly thermophilic P. cunicularius pencosensis.Foraging during the warmest hours of the day allowed P. cunicularius pencosensis ants to avoid the risk of interference competition with dominant species, which also behaved as elaiosome predators. As a conclusion, subordinance behaviour appears to be integral to successfulmyrmecochory, and also the timing of seed release plays a key role in shaping the dynamics of myrmecochorous interactions. Therefore, ant-dispersed plants should not only favour their discovery by subordinate ants, but also should present their seeds at those times of the day whenthe behaviourally dominant ants are less active.