Ant guild identity determines seed fate at the post-removal seed dispersal stages of a desert perennial

Gilad Ben-Zvi, Merav Seifan, Itamar Giladi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Ants play a dual role in their interaction with plant seeds. In deserts, the consumption of seeds by granivorous ants is common, whereas mutualistic seed dispersal, often associated with scavenging ants, is rarely documented. We evaluated the contribution of both ant guilds to efficient seed dispersal of an ant-dispersed plant, Sternbergia clusiana, in a desert ecosystem. We presented seed to colonies of three species of desert ants from the Cataglyphis (scavengers) and Messor (granivorous) genera. We recorded seed consumption, ejection from the nest, and seed transportation to potentially beneficial microhabitats. We evaluated microhabitat quality by testing the association between habitat types and the plant at various life stages. As expected, granivores mainly consumed the seeds, whereas scavengers consumed the elaiosome (seed appendage serving as a reward), but left the seeds intact. Moreover, scavenging ants relocated the seeds much further than granivores, mainly to shrub patches. The disproportional distribution of the plant under shrubs at several life stages suggests that this microhabitat is beneficial for the plant. Overall, while granivores seem to mainly harm seed dispersal, we provide the first evidence for the beneficial contribution of scavenging ants in deserts, showing they exhibit the same suite of characteristics that render them efficient seed dispersers in other ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Cataglyphis sp
  • Directed dispersal
  • Elaiosomes
  • Granivorous ants
  • Messor sp
  • Scavenger ants
  • Seed redispersal
  • Sternbergia clusiana

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Ant guild identity determines seed fate at the post-removal seed dispersal stages of a desert perennial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this