Epiphyte and Ant Garden Studies
This is a companion page to the Antwiki Ant gardens webpage.
- Vergara-Torres, C. A., A. M. Corona-Lopez, C. Diaz-Castelazo, V. H. Toledo-Hernandez, and A. Flores-Palacios. 2018. Effect of seed removal by ants on the host-epiphyte associations in a tropical dry forest of central Mexico. Aob Plants. 10:11. doi:10.1093/aobpla/ply056
Seed depredation is recognized as a determining factor in plant community structure and composition. Ants are primary consumers of seeds influencing abundance of epiphytes on trees. This study was conducted in two subunits of a tropical dry forest established on different soil substrates in San Andres de la Cal, Teportlan, in Morelos, Mexico, and experimentally tested whether seed removal activity is higher in tree species with smaller epiphyte loads compared to those with greater epiphyte loads. Five trees were selected at random from six species of trees with high (preferred hosts) or low (limiting hosts) epiphyte loads. Seed removal differed among hosts and different soil substrates in the forest. On relating seed removal to the abundance of arboreal ants, the most consistent pattern was that lower seed removal was related to lower ant abundance, while high seed removal was associated with intermediate to high ant abundance. Epiphyte seed removal by ants influences epiphyte abundance and can contribute considerably to a failure to establish, since it diminishes the quantity of seeds available for germination and establishment.