, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 295-298

Mutualism between Maieta guianensis Aubl., a myrmecophytic melastome, and one of its ant inhabitants: ant protection against insect herbivores

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The hypothesis that ants (Pheidole minutula) associated with the myrmecophytic melastome Maieta guianensis defend their host-plant against herbivores was investigated in a site near Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. M. guianensis is a small shrub that produces leaf pouches as ant domatia. Plants whose ants were experimentally removed suffered a significant increase in leaf damage compared with control plants (ants maintained). Ants patrol the young and mature leaves of Maieta with the same intensity, presumably since leaves of both ages are equally susceptible to herbivore attack. The elimination of the associated ant colony, and consequent increase in herbivory, resulted in reduced plant fitness. Fruit production was 45 times greater in plants with ants than in plants without ants 1 year after ant removal.