Trade-off or coordination? Correlations between ballochorous and myrmecochorous phases of diplochory

Si Chong Chen, Amir H. Pahlevani, Lenka Malíková, Ricarda Riina, Fiona J. Thomson, Itamar Giladi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The combination of two dispersal syndromes (diplochory) brings additional benefits to seeds, yet the relative costs and benefits of the two phases are poorly understood. Our goal is to provide the first quantification to test the long-standing assumption that there are trade-offs between the two phases in ballistic–ant diplochory. Dispersal investment data were empirically measured for 91 Euphorbiaceae species across different regions of the world. Dispersal distance data of ballochory (seed dispersal by explosion), myrmecochory (seed dispersal by ants) and diplochory was collated from the literature for 210 records (148 species from 44 families). The data were analysed using Model II regression, Kolmogorov–Smirnov test and t test, complemented by phylogenetic comparative approaches. Across diaspores of diplochorous species, the relative investment in myrmecochory increased more than that in ballochory. Fruit coat mass and elaiosome mass covaried in an allometric manner, regardless of seed mass. Diplochorous diaspores were significantly heavier than diaspores dispersed solely by ballochory. Dispersal distances of the two diplochorous phases were independent and comparable to that of sole ballochory or sole myrmecochory. Our results do not support a trade-off, but a coordinated dispersal strategy between the two diplochorous phases. Large diaspores may evolve diplochory to overcome dispersal difficulties in term of dispersal distance. As the most comprehensive study of ballistic–ant diplochory, our findings advance the understanding of the relative importance of the two phases in diplochory. A plain language summary is available for this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1469-1479
Number of pages11
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Euphorbia
  • Mercurialis annua
  • dispersal distance
  • dispersal investment
  • seed dispersal
  • seed mass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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