, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 233–248

Foliar nectar production and ant activity on a neotropical tree, Ochroma pyramidale

  • Dennis J. O'Dowd

DOI: 10.1007/BF00344773

Cite this article as:
O'Dowd, D.J. Oecologia (1979) 43: 233. doi:10.1007/BF00344773


In second growth forest in lowland Costa Rica, ants forage at the foliar nectaries of juvenile Ochroma pyramidale. The relationship between leaf development, foliar nectar production and ant visitation indicates that nectar secretion and ant maintenance are greatest following rapid leaf expansion. Nectar measurements in the glasshouse corroborate field measurements showing that nectar production on a sapling is continuous through time and correlated with distribution and abundance of ants within a sapling. The presence of two nectary types, leaf vein and petiolar, on the leaves of O. pyramidale results in the continual maintenance of ants on the leaf undersurface. Nectar production of a sapling increases with increasing leaf area resulting in greater number of ants per sapling. Energetic costs of nectar production and ant maintenance appear low, representing about one per cent of the total energy invested in leaves.

Spatial and diurnal patterns of ant activity changed very little over the study period. Removal and exclusion of ants from saplings results in the utilization of foliar nectar by trigonid bees. A significant difference in leaf damage between ant-visited and unvisited saplings, coupled with ant behavioral characteristics, is consistent with the hypothesis that ants act as antiherbivore agents on Ochroma.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis J. O'Dowd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineU.S.A.
  2. 2.Division of Plant IndustryCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research OrganizationCanberra CityAustralia