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Seed drops and caches by the harvester ant Messor barbarus: do they contribute to seed dispersal in Mediterranean grasslands?

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Abstract

 To determine whether the harvester ant Messor barbarus acts as a seed disperser in Mediterranean grasslands, the accuracy level of seed processing was assessed in the field by quantifying seed drops by loaded foragers. In the vicinity of exploited seed patches 3 times as many diaspores were found as in controls due to seed losses by foragers. Over trails, up to 30% of harvested seeds were dropped, singly, by workers but all were recovered by nestmates within 24 h. Seeds were also dropped within temporary caches with very few viable diaspores being left per cache when ants no longer used the trail. Globally, ant-dispersed diaspores accounted for only 0.1% of seeds harvested by M. barbarus. We discuss the possible significance for grassland vegetation of harvester-ant-mediated seed dispersal.

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Received: 26 January 2000 / Accepted in revised form: 20 June 2000

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Detrain, C., Tasse, O. Seed drops and caches by the harvester ant Messor barbarus: do they contribute to seed dispersal in Mediterranean grasslands?. Naturwissenschaften 87, 373–376 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s001140050744

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Keywords

  • Seed Dispersal
  • Accuracy Level
  • Seed Disperser
  • Grassland Vegetation
  • Seed Loss