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Effects of Ant Species Composition on Seed Removal in Deciduous Forest in Eastern Europe
Stanislav N. Gorb and Elena V. Gorb
Vol. 84, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 110-118
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3546871
Page Count: 9
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Ant species contribute differently to the removal of elaiosome-bearing seeds. Microhabitats on the deciduous forest floor differ in the composition of ant species; these differences may influence the dispersal of myrmecochorous plants. This study examined removal rates of Viola odorata seeds which were dispersed by foragers of four ant species Formica polyctena (FP), Lasius fuliginosus (LF), Myrmica rubra (MR), and Leptothorax nylanderi (LN). We observed (1) the visit rates of ants and removal rates of seeds at three microhabitats with different ant species composition: FP territory with MR and LN, LF territory with MR and LN, MR territory with LN; (2) the contribution of different ant species to the seed removal rates; (3) effects of microsite type on the duration of seed manipulation by ant workers; (4) number of seeds handled by workers of different ant species; (5) effects of learning and recruitment on seed removal rates in three ant species FP, LF, and MR. At each territory the main contribution to visit rates and to seed removal rates was made by the most dominant ant species. The duration of seed manipulation by MR ants at both FP and LF territories was significantly shorter than that by FP and LF ants. Under the pressure of large LF and FP, the MR workers left the seed depot twice as quickly as in the absence of other ant species. Thus, duration of seed manipulation by MR was significantly shorter at FP, and especially, at LF territories than at MR territory. In all territories the duration of seed manipulation by LN was significantly longer than by other ant species. Learning (MR) or recruitment (FP) took place during seed removal. There were no differences in the duration of seed manipulation between experienced and inexperienced ants of both LF and FP. Inexperienced individuals of MR manipulated seeds twice as long as experienced ones. Experienced ants removed seeds with higher frequency than inexperienced ones regardless of ant species. It is concluded that ant species composition strongly influences the removal rates of seeds and potentially the fate of seeds of a myrmecochore. FP territory, providing the fastest removal of the fruit content, is presumably the most advantageous for the myrmecochore.
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