Nest site selection and induced response in a dominant arboreal ant species
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It is well known that arboreal ants, both territorially dominant species and plant ants (e.g., species associated with myrmecophytes or plants housing them in hollow structures), protect their host trees from defoliators. Nevertheless, the presence of an induced defense, suggested by the fact that the workers discovering a leaf wound recruit nestmates, is only known for plant ants. Based on the results from a field study, we show here (1) that colonies of Azteca chartifex, a territorially dominant, neotropical arboreal ant species, mostly selected Goupia glabra (Goupiaceae) trees in which to build their principal carton nests and (2) that plant signals induced workers to recruit nestmates, which patrol the leaves, likely providing the plant with a biotic defense. Furthermore, the number of recruited workers was clearly higher on G. glabra, their most frequently selected host tree species, than on other tree species. These results show that contrary to what was previously believed, induced responses are also found in territorially dominant arboreal ants and so are not limited to the specific associations between myrmecophytes and plant ants.
KeywordsAnt–plant relationships Biotic defense Induced responses Predation
We are grateful to Jacques H.C. Delabie and Roy R. Snelling for the identification of different samples of ants, to Pascal Petronelli for the identification of the trees, and to Andrea Dejean for proofreading the manuscript. This study was a part of the Programme Amazonie of the CNRS-Guyane.
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