Evol Ecol Res 10: 1217-1223 (2008)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Host plant protection by arboreal ants: looking for a pattern in locally induced responses

Alain Dejean1, Julien Grangier2, Céline Leroy1 and Jérôme Orivel2

1Écologie des Forêts de Guyane (UMR-CNRS 8172), Campus Agronomique, Kourou and  2Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique (UMR-CNRS 5174), Université Toulouse III, Toulouse, France

Correspondence: A. Dejean, Écologie des Forêts de Guyane, Campus Agronomique, 97379 Kourou Cedex, France.
e-mail: alain.dejean@wanadoo.fr


Background: Among arboreal ants, both territorially dominant species and plant-ants (e.g. species associated with myrmecophytes or plants housing them in hollow structures) protect their host trees against defoliators. Yet, locally induced responses, or the recruitment of nest-mates when a worker discovers a wound on its host-tree, were only noted in plant-ants. We wondered whether this might be due to the examination of the phenomenon being restricted to only six plant-ant species belonging to four genera. Based on the ant genus Azteca, a Neotropical group of arboreal species, we compared five species. The territorially dominant, carton-nester A. chartifex, three plant-ant species [A. alfari and A. ovaticeps associated with myrmecophitic Cecropia (Cecropiaceae), and A. bequaerti associated with Tococa guianensis (Melastomataceae)], and A. schimperi thought to be a temporary social parasite of true Cecropia ants.

Methods: We artificially inflicted wounds to the foliage of the host tree of the different ant species. We then compared the number of workers on wounded versus control leaves.

Results: We noted a locally induced response in the three plant-ant species as well as in the territorially dominant species, but very slightly so in A. schimperi.

Keywords: aggressiveness, ant–plant relationships, Azteca, biotic defence, induced responses.

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