Highly modular pattern in ant-plant interactions involving specialized and non-specialized myrmecophytes
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Because Tachia guianensis (Gentianaceae) is a “non-specialized myrmecophyte” associated with 37 ant species, we aimed to determine if its presence alters the ant guild associated with sympatric “specialized myrmecophytes” (i.e., plants sheltering a few ant species in hollow structures). The study was conducted in a hilly zone of a neotropical rainforest where two specialized myrmecophytes grow at the bottom of the slopes, another at mid-slope, and a fourth on the hilltops. Tachia guianensis, which occurred everywhere, had its own guild of associated ant species. A network analysis showed that its connections with the four other myrmecophytes were rare and weak, the whole resulting in a highly modular pattern of interactions with one module (i.e., subnetwork) per myrmecophyte. Three ant species parasitized three out of the four specialized myrmecophytes (low nestedness noted), but were not or barely associated with T. guianensis that therefore did not influence the parasitism of specialized myrmecophytes.
KeywordsAnt-plant mutualism Ecological network Myrmecophytes Modularity Nestedness Sympatric species
We are grateful to Andrea Yockey-Dejean for proofreading the manuscript and to the Laboratoire Environnement de Petit Saut for its logistical assistance.
Financial support was provided by the Investissement d’Avenir grants managed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (CEBA, ref. ANR-10- LABX-25-01) and a research grant by the Brazilian CNPq.
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