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Ants generally disperse seeds while feeding on fruits or structures attached to the seed. Seed dispersal as a by-product of seed predation (dyszoochory) was recognized in specialized harvester ants, but not in ants predating seeds opportunistically. Leafcutting ants are the main herbivores in much of the Neotropics, and they have been reported to remove fruits and seeds, but their role as seed predators and dispersers has not been acknowledged. Prosopis flexuosa D.C. (Fabaceae, Mimosoideae) is the most abundant tree species in the central Monte Desert, Argentina, and it is likely to depend on secondary animal dispersal. Mammalian frugivores are usually considered its main dispersers, but the opportunity for dispersal may be small since the removal of fruits and seeds by seed predators is very intense. The objective of this study was to identify which ant species interact with P. flexuosa fruits and to evaluate their relative importance as seed predators and dispersers. In a field experiment, whole and segmented pods were offered and several ant species exploiting the fruits were identified. Additionally, all pod segments remaining around nests of the three ant species able to remove them (the leafcutters Acromyrmex lobicornis Emery and Acromyrmex striatus Roger, and Pheidole bergi Mayr) were examined during and after the P. flexuosa primary dispersal season. Up to 753 pod segments and 90 sound seeds were found accumulated in a circle of 1 m radius over nests of A. lobicornis, and even more in an examined trail. Acromyrmex striatus left a smaller proportion of sound seeds and P. bergi left a smaller number of pod segments. All tendencies were similar during shorter known periods of accumulation. Leafcutting ants are acting as important seed predators, and 'by mistake' may be dispersing a key non-myrmecochorous tree.This is an unexplored path in the seed dispersal cycle of P. flexuosa that challenges the tendency to predict interactions based on classifications made with other goals.


Documento: Artículo
Título:Unexpected relationships and valuable mistakes: Non-myrmecochorous Prosopis dispersed by messy leafcutting ants in harvesting their seeds
Autor:Milesi, F.A.; Lopez De Casenave, J.
Filiación:Ecodes, Depto. de Ecologia, Genet. Y Evol., Ciudad Universitaria, C1428EHA Buenos Aires, Argentina
Palabras clave:Acromyrmex; Algarrobo; Leafcutters; Monte Desert; Seed dispersal; ant; seed predation; zoochory; Argentina; Mendoza; Monte Desert; South America; Western Hemisphere; World; Acromyrmex; Acromyrmex lobicornis; Acromyrmex striatus; Animalia; Fabaceae; Formicidae; Hymenoptera; Mammalia; Mimosoideae; Pheidole; Pheidole bergi; Prosopis; Prosopis flexuosa
Página de inicio:558
Página de fin:567
Título revista:Austral Ecology
Título revista abreviado:Austral Ecol.


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---------- APA ----------
Milesi, F.A. & Lopez De Casenave, J. (2004) . Unexpected relationships and valuable mistakes: Non-myrmecochorous Prosopis dispersed by messy leafcutting ants in harvesting their seeds. Austral Ecology, 29(5), 558-567.
---------- CHICAGO ----------
Milesi, F.A., Lopez De Casenave, J. "Unexpected relationships and valuable mistakes: Non-myrmecochorous Prosopis dispersed by messy leafcutting ants in harvesting their seeds" . Austral Ecology 29, no. 5 (2004) : 558-567.
---------- MLA ----------
Milesi, F.A., Lopez De Casenave, J. "Unexpected relationships and valuable mistakes: Non-myrmecochorous Prosopis dispersed by messy leafcutting ants in harvesting their seeds" . Austral Ecology, vol. 29, no. 5, 2004, pp. 558-567.
---------- VANCOUVER ----------
Milesi, F.A., Lopez De Casenave, J. Unexpected relationships and valuable mistakes: Non-myrmecochorous Prosopis dispersed by messy leafcutting ants in harvesting their seeds. Austral Ecol. 2004;29(5):558-567.