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Myrmecochores can target high-quality disperser ants: variation in elaiosome traits and ant preferences for myrmecochorous Euphorbiaceae in Brazilian Caatinga

Leal, Laura Carolina, Neto, Mario Correia Lima, de Oliveira, Antonio Fernando Morais, Andersen, Alan N. and Leal, Inara R. (2014). Myrmecochores can target high-quality disperser ants: variation in elaiosome traits and ant preferences for myrmecochorous Euphorbiaceae in Brazilian Caatinga. Oecologia,174(2):493-500.

Document type: Journal Article
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IRMA ID 84376995xPUB115
Title Myrmecochores can target high-quality disperser ants: variation in elaiosome traits and ant preferences for myrmecochorous Euphorbiaceae in Brazilian Caatinga
Author Leal, Laura Carolina
Neto, Mario Correia Lima
de Oliveira, Antonio Fernando Morais
Andersen, Alan N.
Leal, Inara R.
Journal Name Oecologia
Publication Date 2014
Volume Number 174
Issue Number 2
ISSN 1432-1939   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-84892862206
Start Page 493
End Page 500
Total Pages 8
Place of Publication Germany
Publisher Springer
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract Recent evidence suggests that the traditional view of myrmecochory as a highly diffuse interaction between diaspores and a wide range of ant species attracted to their elaiosomes may not be correct. The effectiveness of dispersal varies markedly among ant species, and combined with differential attractiveness of diaspores due to elaiosome size and composition, this raises the potential for myrmecochorous plants to target ant species that offer the highest quality dispersal services. We ask the question: Do particular physical and chemical traits of elaiosomes result in disproportionate removal of Euphorbiaceae diaspores by high-quality disperser ants in Caatinga vegetation of north-eastern Brazil? We offered seeds of five euphorb species that varied in morphological and chemical traits of elaiosomes to seed-dispersing ants. High-quality seed-disperser ants (species of Dinoponera, Ectatomma and Camponotus) were identified as those that rapidly collected and transported diaspores to their nests, often over substantial distances, whereas low-quality disperser ants (primarily species of Pheidole and Solenopsis) typically fed on elaiosomes in situ, and only ever transported diaspores very short distances. Low-quality disperser ants were equally attracted to the elaiosomes of all study species. However, high-quality dispersers showed a strong preference for diaspores with the highest elaiosome mass (and especially proportional mass). As far as we are aware, this is the first study to identify a mechanism of diaspore selection by high-quality ant dispersers based on elaiosome traits under field conditions. Our findings suggest that myrmecochorous plants can preferentially target high-quality seed-disperser ants through the evolution of particular elaiosome traits.
Keywords Elaiosome-bearing seeds
Myrmecochory
Seed-removal experiments
Fatty acids
Oleic acid
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-013-2789-2   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)
 
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