Chapter

Mutualism from Antagonism: <i>Ants as Primary Seed-Dispersers</i>

Victor Rico-Gray and Paulo S. Oliveira

in The Ecology and Evolution of Ant-Plant Interactions

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2007 | ISBN: 9780226713472
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226713540 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226713540.003.0003
Mutualism from Antagonism: Ants as Primary Seed-Dispersers

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Interspecific interactions are based on an entirely selfish cost–benefit system, which depends on the relative gain as compared to loss in fitness produced by the interaction. Antagonistic and mutualistic interactions are related in many ways. Over evolutionary time, certain antagonistic interactions can exhibit a shift in outcome so that the interacting species benefit from the interaction. A change in outcome from antagonism to mutualism is most likely in interactions that are inevitable within the lifetimes of individuals and may have their evolutionary origin in the defense reactions of species. Ants and plants are involved in seed and fruit dispersal as well as pollination. This chapter describes the general characteristics of the reward offered by the plants to the ants (elaiosomes). It offers some general concepts on the selective advantage to plants of seed dispersal by ants that have been associated with a variety of major benefits or hypotheses, followed by examples provided by research done in different regions of the world. The chapter also examines the distribution and significance of myrmecochory worldwide.

Keywords: elaiosomes; seed dispersal; ants; myrmecochory; mutualism; antagonism; plants

Chapter.  8746 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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