, Volume 135, Issue 4, pp 576-582
Date: 28 Mar 2003

Invasive Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) do not replace native ants as seed dispersers of Dendromecon rigida (Papaveraceae) in California, USA

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Abstract

We investigated the indirect effects of Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) invasions on patterns of seed dispersal and predation in the myrmecochorous tree poppy Dendromecon rigida in coastal San Diego County, California. Significantly more seeds were removed from ant-accessible seed stations at sites numerically dominated by a common harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex subnitidus), a native disperser of these seeds and a species sensitive to displacement by L. humile, than from those stations at sites where L. humile was in the majority. Predation of seeds was high, but variable, across sites, suggesting that reduced dispersal could result in increased seed predation in some habitats. Removal of elaiosomes did not affect the frequency with which predators removed seeds, but ants removed significantly more seeds with elaiosomes than without. In behavior trials, only P. subnitidus was able to carry seeds of Dendromecon rigida effectively. L. humile and a small native ant species, Dorymyrmex insanus, while displaying interest in the diaspores, were seldom able to carry whole seeds and, when they did, only carried them a few centimeters. Displacement of native harvester ants by L. humile appears to decrease the dispersal of Dendromecon rigida seeds and may be increasing loss of seeds due to predation.