An ant's-eye view of an ant-plant protection mutualism

M. C. Lanan, Judith L Bronstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ant protection of extrafloral nectar (EFN)-secreting plants is a common form of mutualism found in most habitats around the world. However, very few studies have considered these mutualisms from the ant, rather than the plant, perspective. In particular, a whole-colony perspective that takes into account the spatial structure and nest arrangement of the ant colonies that visit these plants has been lacking, obscuring when and how colony-level foraging decisions might affect tending rates on individual plants. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that recruitment of Crematogaster opuntiae (Buren) ant workers to the EFN-secreting cactus Ferocactus wislizeni (Englem) is not independent between plants up to 5 m apart. Colony territories of C. opuntiae are large, covering areas of up to 5,000 m2, and workers visit between five and 34 EFN-secreting barrel cacti within the territories. These ants are highly polydomous, with up to 20 nest entrances dispersed throughout the territory and interconnected by trail networks. Our study demonstrates that worker recruitment is not independent within large polydomous ant colonies, highlighting the importance of considering colonies rather than individual workers as the relevant study unit within ant/plant protection mutualisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-790
Number of pages12
JournalOecologia
Volume172
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Fingerprint

mutualism
plant protection
Crematogaster opuntiae
ant
Formicidae
eyes
nectar
Ferocactus wislizeni
nests
nectar plants
cactus
nest
foraging
habitats
habitat
ant colonies

Keywords

  • Extrafloral nectar
  • Foraging
  • Mutualism
  • Polydomy
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

An ant's-eye view of an ant-plant protection mutualism. / Lanan, M. C.; Bronstein, Judith L.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 172, No. 3, 07.2013, p. 779-790.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lanan, M. C. ; Bronstein, Judith L. / An ant's-eye view of an ant-plant protection mutualism. In: Oecologia. 2013 ; Vol. 172, No. 3. pp. 779-790.
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