Ecological Research

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 393–404 | Cite as

Pruning behavior and intercolony competition of Tetraponera (Pachysima) aethiops (Pseudomyrmecinae, Hymenoptera) in Barteria fistulosa in a tropical forest, Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Takakazu Yumoto
  • Tamaki Maruhashi
Original Articles

The early stages of colonization by Tetraponera (= Pachysima) aethiops (Pseudomyrmecinae) to its obligate host plant, Barteria fistulosa (Passifloraceae), was studied in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). In our observations, as many as 36 queens colonized a seedling, and all of the established colonies had just a single queen each. The ants depend totally on the products of scale insects which inhabit the domatia. The ants damage the terminal meristems of the branches where other incipient colonies may inhabit. This tip-biting behavior may deteriorate the nutritional condition of scale insects and suppress the growth of the competing colonies. Ants pruned the plants near the edge of the trunk of the host tree most intensively, even the foliage of the lowest branch in shade. This observation supports the hypothesis that the main driving force which leads to pruning behavior is intercolony competition rather than improving the light condition of the host tree.

Key words

Africa ant–plant Barteria fistulosa intercolony competition Tetraponera aethiops tropical forest 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bequaert J. (1922). Ants in their diverse relations to the plant world. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 45: 333–584.Google Scholar
  2. Davidson D. W. & Fisher B. L. (1991) Symbiosis of ants with Cecropia as a function of light regime. In: Ant–Plant Interactions (eds C. R. Huxley & D. F. Cutler) pp. 289–309. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  3. Davidson D. W., Longino J. T., Snelling R. R. (1988) Pruning of host plant neighbors by ants: An experimental approach. Ecology 69: 801–808.Google Scholar
  4. Hölldobler B. & Wilson E. O. (1990) The Ants. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  5. Janzen D. H. (1966) Coevolution of mutualism between ants and acacias in Central America. Evolution 20: 249–275.Google Scholar
  6. Janzen D. H. (1967) Interaction of the bull’s-horn acacia (Acacia cornigera L.) with an ant inhabitant (Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus F. Smith) in eastern Mexico. Kansas University Science Bulletin 47: 315–558.Google Scholar
  7. Janzen D. H. (1969) Allelopathy by myrmecophytes: The ant Azteca as an allelopathic agent of Cecropia. Ecology 50: 147–153.Google Scholar
  8. Janzen D. H. (1972) Protection of Barteria (Passifloraceae) by Pachysima ants (Pseudomyrmecinae) in a Nigerian rain forest. Ecology 53: 885–892.Google Scholar
  9. Longino J. T. (1989) Geographic variation and community structure in an ant–plant mutualism: Azteca and Cecropia in Costa Rica. Biotropica 21: 126–132.Google Scholar
  10. Longino J. T. (1991) Azteca ants in Cecropia trees: Taxonomy, colony structure, and behavior. In: Ant–Plant Interactions (eds C. R. Huxley & D. F. Cutler) pp. 271–288. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  11. McKey D. (1984) Interaction of the ant-plant Leonardoxa africana (Caesalpineaceae) with its obligate inhabitants in a rainforest in Cameroon. Biotropica 16: 81–99.Google Scholar
  12. Risch J. J., Mc Clure M., Vandermeer J., Walts S. (1977) Mutualism between three species of tropical Piper (Piperaceae) and their ant inhabitants. American Midland Naturalist 98: 433–444.Google Scholar
  13. Yamagiwa J., Yumoto T., Maruhashi T., Mwanza N. (1993) Field methodology for analyzing diets of eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Zaire. Tropics 2: 209–218.Google Scholar
  14. Young T. R., Stubblefield C. H., Isbell L. A. (1997) Ants on swollen-thorn acacias: Species coexistence in a simple system. Oecologia 109: 98–107.Google Scholar
  15. Yu D. W. & Davidson D. W. (1997) Experimental studies of species-specificity on Cecropia–ant relationship. Ecological Monographs 67: 273–294.Google Scholar
  16. Yu D. W. & Pierce N. E. (1998) A castration parasite of an ant–plant mutualism. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 265: 375–382.Google Scholar
  17. Yumoto T., Yamagiwa J., Mwanza N., Maruhashi T. (1994) List of plant species identified in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Zaire. Tropics 3: 295–308.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Blackwell Science Asia Pty. Ltd. 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Ecological ResearchKyoto UniversityOtsuJapan
  2. 2.Department of Human and Cultural ScienceMusashi UniversityTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations