Predation and aggressiveness in host plant protection: a generalization using ants from the genus Azteca
- 343 Downloads
In studying the ant genus Azteca, a Neotropical group of arboreal species, we aimed to determine the extent to which the ants use predation and/or aggressiveness to protect their host plants from defoliating insects. We compared a territorially dominant, carton-nester, Azteca chartifex, and three plant-ant species. Azteca alfari and Azteca ovaticeps are associated with the myrmecophyte Cecropia (Cecropiaceae) and their colonies shelter in its hollow branches; whereas Azteca bequaerti is associated with Tococa guianensis (Melastomataceae) and its colonies shelter in leaf pouches situated at the base of the laminas. Whereas A. bequaerti workers react to the vibrations transmitted by the lamina when an alien insect lands on a leaf making it unnecessary for them to patrol their plant, the workers of the three other species rather discover prey by contact. The workers of all four species use a predatory behaviour involving spread-eagling alien insects after recruiting nestmates at short range, and, in some cases, at long range. Because A. alfari and A. ovaticeps discard part of the insects they kill, we deduced that the workers’ predatory behaviour and territorial aggressiveness combine in the biotic defence of their host tree.
KeywordsAggressiveness Ant–plant relationships Biotic defence Predation
We are grateful to Jacques H.C. Delabie, Roy R. Snelling and John T. Longino for the identification of different samples of our ants, and to Andrea Dejean for proofreading the manuscript. This work was supported by the Programme Amazonie II of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (project 2ID) and the Programme Convergence 2007–2013, Région Guyane from the European Community (project DEGA).
- Benson WW (1985) Amazon ant-plants. In: Prance GT, Lovejoy TE (eds) Amazonia. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 239–266Google Scholar
- Blum MS, Hermann HR (1978) Venom and venom apparatuses of the Formicidae: Dolichoderinae and Aneuretinae. In: Bettini S (ed) Arthropods Venoms. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 871–894Google Scholar
- Coley PD, Kursar TA (1996) Anti-herbivore defenses of young tropical leaves: physiological constraints and ecological trade-offs. In: Smith AP, Muclkey SS, Chazdon RL (eds) Tropical forest plant ecophysiology. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 305–336Google Scholar
- Davidson DW (2005) Cecropia and its biotic defenses. Fl Neotrop Monog 94:214–226Google Scholar
- Dejean A, Corbara B, Orivel J, Leponce M (2007a) Rainforest canopy ants: the implications of territoriality and predatory behavior. Func Ecosyst Comm 1:105–120Google Scholar
- Farji Brener AG, Folgarait P, Protomastro J (1992) Asociatión entre el arbuso Capparis retusa (Capparidaceae) y las hormigas Camponotus blandus y Acromyrmex striatus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Rev Biol Trop 40:341–344Google Scholar
- Gaume L, McKey D (1998) Protection against herbivores of the myrmecophyte Leonardoxa africana (Baill.) Aubrèv. T3 by its principal ant inhabitant Aphomomyrmex afer Emery. C R Acad Sc 321:593–601Google Scholar
- Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Longino JT (2007) A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group. Zootaxa 1491:1–63Google Scholar
- Mercier JL, Dejean A, Lenoir A (1998) Limited aggressiveness among African arboreal ants sharing the same territories: the result of a co-evolutionary process. Sociobiology 32:139–150Google Scholar
- Rico-Gray V, Oliveira P (2007) The ecology and evolution of ant-plant interactions. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA, 331ppGoogle Scholar