Oecologia

, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 81–87

Conflict resolution in an ant–plant interaction: Acaciaconstricta traits reduce ant costs to reproduction

Plant Animal Interactions

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-006-0359-6

Cite this article as:
Nicklen, E.F. & Wagner, D. Oecologia (2006) 148: 81. doi:10.1007/s00442-006-0359-6

Abstract

Many plant species attract ants onto their foliage with food rewards or nesting space. However, ants can interfere with plant reproduction when they visit flowers. This study tests whether Acacia constricta separates visiting ant species temporally or spatially from newly opened inflorescences and pollinators. The diurnal activity patterns of ants and A. constricta pollinators peaked at different times of day, and the activity of pollinators followed the daily dehiscence of A. constricta inflorescences. In addition to being largely temporally separated, ants rarely visited open inflorescences. A floral ant repellent contributes to the spatial separation of ants and inflorescences. In a field experiment, ants of four species were given equal access to inflorescences in different developmental stages. On average, the frequency with which ants made initial, antennal contact with the floral stages did not differ, but ants significantly avoided secondary contact with newly opened inflorescences relative to buds and old inflorescences, and old inflorescences relative to buds. Ants also avoided contact with pollen alone, indicating that pollen is at least one source of the repellent. The results suggest A. constricta has effectively resolved the potential conflict between visiting ants and plant reproduction.

Keywords

AcaciaAnt repellentConflictsMutualismPollination

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA