Interaction between flowers, ants and pollinators: additional evidence for floral repellence against ants
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It has been commonly suggested that ants negatively affect plant pollination, particularly in the tropics. We studied ant–flower–pollinator interactions in a lowland rainforest in Borneo. Frequency and duration of pollinator visits were compared between flowers attended by ants and flowers from which ants were excluded. In all four plant species studied, the activity of ants decreased the rate and/or duration of the pollinators’ floral visits. For this and other reasons it is expected that plants repel ants from flowers during anthesis. We tested this prediction for a different set of plant species in which we observed the behaviour of Dolichoderus thoracicus ants when encountering flowers. In eight out of 18 plant species studied, ants showed a significantly higher rejection rate when they encountered flowers than when they encountered controls. Our results are thus consistent with the hypothesis that ants may negatively affect plant fitness by reduced intensity of pollinator visits and that ants are repelled from flowers of many tropical plant species, although this repellence is clearly not ubiquitous.
KeywordsAnt repellence Forest canopy Lowland dipterocarp forest Nectar Pollination
We thank the Friedrich Drayer Company (Glottertal, Germany) for generously donating tree-climbing equipment, the Economic Planning Unit (Malaysia) and the Danum Valley Management Committee for permission. This work was part of the Royal Society’s South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme. The DAAD is acknowledged for travel support for R.J. and the Danum Valley staff for logistical support.
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