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Ants at Plant Wounds: A Little-Known Trophic Interaction with Evolutionary Implications for Ant-Plant Interactions.

Staab, Michael and Fornoff, Felix and Klein, Alexandra-Maria and Blüthgen, Nico (2017):
Ants at Plant Wounds: A Little-Known Trophic Interaction with Evolutionary Implications for Ant-Plant Interactions.
In: The American naturalist, pp. 442-450, 190, (3), ISSN 1537-5323, [Article]

Abstract

Extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) allow plants to engage in mutualisms with ants, preventing herbivory in exchange for food. EFNs occur scattered throughout the plant phylogeny and likely evolved independent from herbivore-created wounds subsequently visited by ants collecting leaked sap. Records of wound-feeding ants are, however, anecdotal. By surveying 38,000 trees from 40 species, we conducted the first quantitative ecological study of this overlooked behavior. Ant-wound interactions were widespread (0.5% of tree individuals) and occurred on 23 tree species. Interaction networks were opportunistic, closely resembling ant-EFN networks. Fagaceae, a family lacking EFNs, was strongly overrepresented. For Fagaceae, ant occurrence at wounds correlated with species-level leaf damage, potentially indicating that wounds may attract mutualistic ants, which supports the hypothesis of ant-tended wounds as precursors of ant-EFN mutualisms. Given that herbivore wounds are common, wound sap as a steadily available food source might further help to explain the overwhelming abundance of ants in (sub)tropical forest canopies.

Item Type: Article
Erschienen: 2017
Creators: Staab, Michael and Fornoff, Felix and Klein, Alexandra-Maria and Blüthgen, Nico
Title: Ants at Plant Wounds: A Little-Known Trophic Interaction with Evolutionary Implications for Ant-Plant Interactions.
Language: English
Abstract:

Extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) allow plants to engage in mutualisms with ants, preventing herbivory in exchange for food. EFNs occur scattered throughout the plant phylogeny and likely evolved independent from herbivore-created wounds subsequently visited by ants collecting leaked sap. Records of wound-feeding ants are, however, anecdotal. By surveying 38,000 trees from 40 species, we conducted the first quantitative ecological study of this overlooked behavior. Ant-wound interactions were widespread (0.5% of tree individuals) and occurred on 23 tree species. Interaction networks were opportunistic, closely resembling ant-EFN networks. Fagaceae, a family lacking EFNs, was strongly overrepresented. For Fagaceae, ant occurrence at wounds correlated with species-level leaf damage, potentially indicating that wounds may attract mutualistic ants, which supports the hypothesis of ant-tended wounds as precursors of ant-EFN mutualisms. Given that herbivore wounds are common, wound sap as a steadily available food source might further help to explain the overwhelming abundance of ants in (sub)tropical forest canopies.

Journal or Publication Title: The American naturalist
Volume: 190
Number: 3
Divisions: 10 Department of Biology
10 Department of Biology > Ecological Networks
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2017 08:39
Identification Number: pmid:28829637
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