LESCANO Maria natalia
Nocturnal resource defence in aphid-tending ants of northern Patagonia
LESCANO M. N.; FARJI-BRENER, A.G.; GIANOLI, E
WILEY-BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, INC
Lugar: Londres; Año: 2014 vol. 39 p. 203 - 209
Interspecific competition plays a key role in the organisation of ant communities. In ant?plant interactions, individual host plants are usually occupied by a single ant colony, and co-occurring ant species compete for hosts. Here indirect evidence of competition between three dominant ant species that tend aphids on two biennial thistles in northern Patagonia is described, and a novel defensive behaviour in temperate ant assemblages is reported.This study has found that: (i) dominant ant species were not spatially segregated, thus enhancing the probability of fights and invasions of host plants; (ii) ant species did not show preferences for a thistle species or for any plant characteristic, and thus all plants have similar chances of being colonised by all dominant ant species; (iii) the resident ant species remained on the same plant during the whole plant life cycle, monopolising plant resources (aphids); and (iv) all dominant species, whose nests are on the ground, assigned some ants to stay on the host plant during the night, when the low temperatures typical of this temperate environment greatly reduce foraging activities. When these ?nocturnal guards? were experimentally removed from the host plant, other ants from the same colony rapidly appeared showing aggressive behaviours.Taking all these findings together, it is suggested that interspecific competition influences the distribution of ants on their host plants and involves nocturnal defensive behaviours despite unfavourable thermal conditions. This illustrates how habitat features, such as the short life cycle of thistles and the low night-time temperatures that reduce ant foraging and thus make plants more vulnerable to invasion, might affect the distribution and behaviour of ants.