Chapter

Mutualism from Opportunism: <i>Ants as Secondary 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/9780226713540.003.0004
Mutualism from Opportunism: Ants as Secondary Seed-Dispersers

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Studies on seed dispersal of tropical species have traditionally focused on fruit consumption and seed deposition patterns created by primary seed dispersers. More recently, however, the relevance of postdispersal events for seed fate and demography of plant species has been repeatedly emphasized for a number of dispersal systems. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that postdispersal events, some of them involving ants as seed vectors, can markedly affect seed fate in numerous plant species from different regions. Although myrmecochory can be an important dispersal strategy for some plant taxa in neotropical forests, typical myrmecochores are especially common in arid Australia and South Africa, and in Mediterranean and temperate areas. This chapter summarizes recent findings showing that the use of fallen fleshy diaspores by opportunistic ground-dwelling ants can have relevant effects on seed and seedling biology of primarily vertebrate-dispersed plant species. It characterizes the plant and ant species involved in these interactions, addresses the particular attributes of ants and diaspores that mediate the interaction, and discusses the possible consequences of the interaction for the plants.

Keywords: diaspores; ants; plants; seed dispersal; myrmecochory

Chapter.  5319 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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