Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 343–349 | Cite as

Competition hierarchy and plant defense in a guild of ants on tropical Passiflora

  • F. F. Xu
  • J. ChenEmail author
Research Article


In facultative ant–plant interactions, ants may compete with each other for food provided by extrafloral nectar (EFN) plants. We studied resource competition and plant defense in a guild of ants that use the same EFN resource provided by two species of Passiflora in a seasonal rain forest in tropical China. At least 22 ant species were recorded using the EFN resource, although some of those species were rare. Among these ants, Paratrechina sp.1 and Dolichoderus thoracicus were more aggressive than other species. Ant aggressiveness measured as ant behavioral dominance index (BDI) was positively correlated with ant abundance on the Passiflora species studied. Ant BDI was also positively correlated to the protection that ants provided against herbivory. In Passiflora siamica, the number of workers patrolling on the plants did negatively correlate with average leaf loss per plant. We conclude that in this facultative Passiflora–ant system, plant defense upon herbivore was indeed influenced by the total number of ants present on plant and the aggressiveness of these ants.


EFN plant Ant competition Ant–plant mutualism Plant defense Competitive hierarchies 



We thank Prof. Zhenghui Xu for identifying ants, Dr. Darong Yang for identifying other insects, Dr. Hong Wang for identifying plants in the habitat, Prof. Theodore Fleming, Dr. Matthew Warren for insight comments and help with language editing, Prof. Anthony R. Ives for advice in statistics, and Ms. Jianxiang Hu, Mr. Baogui Li, Mr. Xinming Li and Mr. Jianping Huang, Mr. Meng Li and Ms. Xiaomei He for field assistance.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest EcologyXishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of SciencesMenglaChina
  2. 2.Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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