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Consequences of ants and extrafloral nectar for a pollinating seed-consuming mutualism: ant satiation, floral distraction
 

Summary: 381
Consequences of ants and extrafloral nectar for a pollinating
seed-consuming mutualism: ant satiation, floral distraction
or plant defense?
J. Nathaniel Holland, Scott A. Chamberlain and Tom E. X. Miller
J. N. Holland (jhollandiii@gmail.com), S. A. Chamberlain and T. E. X. Miller, Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice Univ.,
6100 S. Main St., Houston, TX 77005, USA.
Non-pollinating consumers of floral resources, especially ants, can disrupt pollination and plant reproductive processes. As
an alternative food resource to flowers, extrafloral nectar (EFN) may distract and satiate ants from flowers, thereby reducing
their antagonistic effects on plants. Yet, EFN may actually attract and increase ant density on plants, thus increasing the
disruption of pollination and/or their defense of plants. In this study, we tested the effects of ants and EFN on pollinating
seed-consuming interactions between senita cacti and senita moths in the Sonoran Desert. Prior study of senita showed that
EFN can distract ants from flowers, but consequences for plant­pollinator interactions remain unstudied. In our current
study, ant exclusion had no effect on pollination or oviposition when moths were abundant (85% flower visitation). Yet,
in an ant by EFN factorial experiment under lower moth abundance (40% visitation), there was a significant effect of
ant exclusion (but not EFN or an ant EFN) on pollination and oviposition. In contrast with our predictions, ant pres-
ence increased rather than decreased pollination (and oviposition) by moths, indicating a beneficial effect of ants on plant
reproduction. While ant density on plants showed a saturating response to continuous experimental variation in EFN, in
support of ant satiation and distraction, the probability of pollination and oviposition increased and saturated with ant
density, again showing a beneficial effect of ants on plant reproduction. Ants showed no significant effect on fruit set, fruit

  

Source: Azevedo, Ricardo - Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston
Holland, J. Nathaniel - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University

 

Collections: Biology and Medicine; Environmental Sciences and Ecology