Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 126, Issue 1, pp 73–79 | Cite as

Change in biomass of symbiotic ants throughout the ontogeny of a myrmecophyte, Macaranga beccariana (Euphorbiaceae)

  • Chihiro HandaEmail author
  • Tadahiro Okubo
  • Aogu Yoneyama
  • Masashi Nakamura
  • Mari Sakaguchi
  • Narumi Takahashi
  • Mayumi Okamoto
  • Ayumi Tanaka-Oda
  • Tanaka Kenzo
  • Tomoaki Ichie
  • Takao Itioka
Regular Paper


Macaranga myrmecophytes (ant-plants) provide their partner symbiotic ants (plant-ants) with food bodies as their main food, and they are protected by the plant-ants from herbivores. The amount of resource allocated to food bodies determines the plant-ant colony size and consequently determines the intensity of ant defense (anti-herbivore defense by plant-ants). As constraints in resource allocation change as plants grow, the plant-ant colony size is hypothesized to change with the ontogenesis of Macaranga myrmecophyte. To determine the ontogenetic change in the relative size of the plant-ant colony, we measured the dry weights of the whole plant-ant colony and all of the aboveground parts of trees at various ontogenetic stages for a myrmecophytic species (Macaranga beccariana) in a Bornean lowland tropical rain forest. Ant biomass increased as plant biomass increased. However, the rate of increase gradually declined, and the ant biomass appeared to reach a ceiling once trees began to branch. The ant/plant biomass ratio consistently decreased as plant biomass increased, with the rate of decrease gradually accelerating. We infer that the ontogenetic reduction in ant/plant biomass ratio is caused by an ontogenetic change in resource allocation to food rewards for ants related to the physiological changes accompanying the beginning of branching.


Ant–plant interactions Biotic defense Mutualism Ontogenetic change Resource allocation South-East Asian tropics 



We thank L. Chong, J. J. Kendawang and other staff members of the Forest Research Centre, Sarawak, and Forest Department of Sarawak for providing access to the study site as well as kind assistance. We are also grateful to T. Nakashizuka, M. Ichikawa, N. Yamamura and S. Sakai for supporting our research activities. This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) to T. I. (No. 17405006) and to C. H. as a JSPS Fellow and from the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (project numbers 2-2, D-04).


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Copyright information

© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chihiro Handa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tadahiro Okubo
    • 1
  • Aogu Yoneyama
    • 2
  • Masashi Nakamura
    • 3
  • Mari Sakaguchi
    • 3
  • Narumi Takahashi
    • 3
  • Mayumi Okamoto
    • 3
  • Ayumi Tanaka-Oda
    • 4
  • Tanaka Kenzo
    • 5
  • Tomoaki Ichie
    • 3
  • Takao Itioka
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of Human and Environmental StudiesKyoto UniversitySakyo-kuJapan
  2. 2.United Graduate School of Agricultural SciencesEhime UniversityMatsuyamaJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of AgricultureKochi UniversityNankokuJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Frontier SciencesUniversity of TokyoKashiwaJapan
  5. 5.Forestry and Forest Products Research InstituteTsukubaJapan

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