Ant pollination of Syzygium occidentale, an endemic tree species of tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats, India

Abstract

Although mutualism between ants and flowering plants is wide spread, ant pollination has not evolved as a major pollination syndrome. So far ant pollination has been reported largely in herbaceous species, growing in warm and dry habitats. While studying pollination ecology of Syzygium species (Myrtaceae), growing in tropical forests of the Western Ghats, India, we observed one of the ant species, Technomyrmex albipes, to be the dominant floral visitor in S. occidentale (Bourd.) Chithra among a range of other insect (species of Xylocopa and Trigona, and Apis cerana) and bird visitors. We studied the role of ant species in pollination when compared to other floral visitors. The fruit set in flowers exclusively visited by T. albipes was significantly higher than those visited by any other visitor. The day and night exclusive pollination experiments allowing only T. albipes indicated diel pollination by T. albipes, which was the only active flower visitor during the night. The breeding system of the species was studied through controlled pollinations. The species is partially self-compatible and exhibits considerable autogamy.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the two anonymous reviewers for constructive and critical comments in the original version of the manuscript. We acknowledge the Department of Science and Technology (Government of India) for financial support. We thank Mr. Anirudha Maratte of ATREE, Bangalore for identification of ant species.

Funding

This study was supported by Science and Engineering Research Board, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

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Correspondence to Palatty Allesh Sinu.

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Handling Editor: Isabel Alves dos Santos.

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Kuriakose, G., Sinu, P.A. & Shivanna, K.R. Ant pollination of Syzygium occidentale, an endemic tree species of tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats, India. Arthropod-Plant Interactions 12, 647–655 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11829-018-9613-1

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Keywords

  • Breeding system
  • Myrmecophily
  • Myrtaceae
  • Pollination efficiency
  • Technomyrmex albipes