Chapter

Nutrition of Plants by Ant Mutualists: <i>Life History of Ant-Fed Plants and Ant-Garden Systems</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/9780226713540.003.0008
Nutrition of Plants by Ant Mutualists: Life History of Ant-Fed Plants and Ant-Garden Systems

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Ants are probably the most common arboreal insects in tropical forests. Light gaps in forests induce a high richness of biotic interactions through intense competition among plants and through animal–plant interactions. Mutualism can be favored when organisms with a high probability of encounter and very low pre-mutualism growth rates live in environments that impose a high level of physical stress (for example, nutrient-poor habitats) but lack the richness of antagonistic interactions that is the basis for selection in many other mutualisms. Probably the clearest examples of how stressful environments can favor novel forms of interaction, including mutualism, involve the reversal of the usual trophic order of life. This chapter, which describes nutrition of plants by ant mutualists, focusing on the life history of ant-fed plants and ant-garden systems, first reviews the published literature and examples of ant-fed plants and then considers the ant–plant interactions commonly referred to as ant gardens. It also looks at the epiphytic myrmecophytes and then the geophytes or non-epiphytic myrmecophytes.

Keywords: ant-fed plants; ant gardens; nutrition; mutualism; life history; ant–plant interactions; ants; myrmecophytes; geophytes

Chapter.  4156 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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