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Speciation in Obligately Plant-Associated Crematogaster Ants: Host Distribution Rather than Adaption Towards Specific Hosts Drives the Process

  • Heike FeldhaarEmail author
  • Jürgen Gadau
  • Brigitte Fiala
Chapter

Abstract

Ecological interactions among organisms may be an essential factor facilitating speciation processes. In one of the most species-rich ant–plant symbiotic systems worldwide pioneer trees of the euphorb genus Macaranga are inhabited by specific partner ants, mostly of the genus Crematogaster subgenus Decacrema. Both groups underwent radiation, with 30 species of Macaranga being colonized by eight species of Crematogaster. In this obligate association, the ants rely solely on their host for nutrition and nesting space. Hosts are distributed patchily in disturbed sites or gaps in primary forest. Association patterns are non-random in spite of the often sympatric occurrence of several host-plant species. Generally, each ant species colonizes two to seven different host species over its whole distributional range. Speciation processes in the ants may thus be driven either by adaptation towards alternative host species or by spatial patterns of host distribution, or by both factors. Limited dispersal of queens and nest site limitation due to the obligate association with a host were found to lead to significant isolation by distance on a small spatial scale in primary forest. Extremely high intraspecific genetic variation of mitochondrial markers was in contrast to the low genetic variability of nuclear markers, also pointing towards small population sizes of the ants and the importance of genetic drift in the diversification processes. Adaptation towards alternative hosts may occur as a by-product when different Macaranga hosts are colonized in different regions.

Keywords

Host Species Primary Forest Speciation Process Nest Space Founding Queen 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to David Nash and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This work was supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grants Ga661/2-1, Fe631/1-1, Fe631/1-2 and Fi606/5) within priority program SPP 1127 “Adaptive Radiations”. Permission to conduct research in Malaysia was kindly granted by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister´s Office, Kuala Lumpur, and EPU in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, as well as the Danum Valley Management Committee. Our permit to work in Brunei was obtained by Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Brunei Museum. We thank our counterparts and colleagues in Malaysia and Brunei for their cooperation and support, especially Prof. Datin Dr. Maryati Mohamed, Dr. Rosli bin Hashim, Dr. Kamariah Abu Salim, and members of Sabah Parks, namely Dr. Jamili Nais and Dr. Maklarin bin Lakim. Logistic support and help in many other ways by Prof. Dr. K. Eduard Linsenmair is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Prof. Dr. Ulrich Maschwitz for the kind supply of ant material. Barbara Feldmeyer, Sabine Frohschammer and Manfred Türke contributed greatly to field work. We are grateful for support in sampling and especially discussing speciation processes in this ant–plant association to Daniela Guicking, Frank Blattner, Kurt Weising, Ute Moog and Christina Baier from the accompanying Macaranga project.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heike Feldhaar
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jürgen Gadau
    • 1
    • 3
  • Brigitte Fiala
    • 4
  1. 1.Behavioural Physiology and Sociobiology (Zoology II), Biocenter, Am HublandUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Behavioural BiologyUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology (Zoology III), Biocenter, Am HublandUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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