Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reading: The Ecology and Evolution of Ant-Plant Interactions

"The Ecology and Evolution of Ant-Plant Interactions" by Victor Rico-Gray and Paulo S. Oliveira.

I started reading this book yesterday and I'm thrilled so far. I was expecting this book to focus heavily on Pogonomyrmex, Harvester Ants, and Atta, Leaf Cutter Ants. To my surprise though they are only really talked about for the second chapter. So the book is 9 chapters long what could they really talk about?

Reading on I find they other chapters focus on ants as a primary seed dispersal. So I'm thinking okay this is going to just talk about voilets and trilliums, which they do for the post part. But they end this chapter with a list of plants ants disperce the seeds of! Trilliums, some Violets, Wild Ginger, Blood Root, Bleeding Hearts (which is a big surprise to me!) all use ants to disperce seeds. The list goes on but but many of the plants are not in my area and I'm trying to keep the garden as native as I can.

What's interesting about this is the coating around the seeds that attracts the ants is fed to ant larva. And as it turns out this will change worker brood into queens. Thus colonies that work these seeds as a food source will produce more queen ants to make more colonies. When I get a few colonies going and have these plants I'll have to keep an eye on this behavior. Normally captive colonies don't produce reproductives.

The book goes on to name Ant Genera that disperce seeds. Probably most surprising is that Prenolepsis, Formica, Camponotus, Lasius, and Myrmica will plant seeds to these plants.

Later chapters of this book show Ants as a pollinator to some plants. Mostly plants growing in dry conditions and that have very small flowers. Generally any small insect will work as a pollinator but it's good to know ants contribute here.