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Experimental study of pollination by ants in Mediterranean high mountain and arid habitats

Abstract

In this paper, we report the results of an experimental study on ant pollination of three plant species inhabiting the Mediterranean high mountains (Alyssum purpureum, Arenaria tetraquetra and Sedum anglicum) and four species inhabiting the aridlands (Lepidium subulatum, Gypsophyla struthium, Frankenia thymifolia and Retama sphaerocarpa) of South-eastern Spain. We determined several plant and ant traits, as well as the composition and abundance of the pollinator assemblage. Insects belonging to 29 families and five orders visited the flowers of the plant species studied. In all but two, L. subulatum and G. struthium, the ants comprised 70–100% of the flower visitors. The results clearly show that five out of seven of these plant species were pollinated by ants. The role of the ants as pollinators seems to depend heavily on the relative abundance of the ants with respect to the other species of the pollinator assemblage, ant pollination becoming evident when ants outnumber other floral visitors. The ant-pollination systems analysed in this study may be the result of prevailing ecological conditions more than an evolutionary result of a specialized interaction.

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Correspondence to J. M. Gómez.

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Gómez, J.M., Zamora, R., Hódar, J.A. et al. Experimental study of pollination by ants in Mediterranean high mountain and arid habitats. Oecologia 105, 236–242 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00328552

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Key words

  • Ant pollination
  • High-mountain ecology
  • Mediterranean habitats
  • Mutualism