Redispersal of seeds by a keystone ant augments the spread of common wildflowers

Judith E. Canner, Robert R. Dunn, Itamar Giladi, Kevin Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

Myrmecochory (dispersal of seeds by ants) is an evolutionarily and ecologically common mutualism. Most of the research on the costs and benefits of myrmecochory in North America assumes that ant-dispersed seeds are taken to, and left in, the ant nest. Here, we use a novel seed-tracking technique to quantify secondary dispersal of seeds from the nest into the surrounding leaf litter by the keystone seed-dispersing ant, Aphaenogaster rudis. We found that A. rudis redispersed >90% of the seeds it took into its nest an average distance of 51.5 cm. A mathematical model shows redispersal increases the rate of population spread of the myrmecochores Hexastylis arifolia and Asarum canadense by 22.5%, and increases the expected cumulative dispersal distance away from the parent plant by 24%. Our results suggest myrmecochory benefits plants in eastern North American forests by increasing the distance between the seed and parent plant and reducing competition among siblings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
JournalActa Oecologica
Volume40
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2012

Keywords

  • Aphaenogaster rudis
  • Myrmecochory
  • Plant benefits
  • Population spread rate
  • Redispersal
  • Temperate forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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