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Inherited biotic protection in a Neotropical pioneer plant

Dejean, Alain and Corbara, Bruno and Leroy, Céline and Delabie, Jacques H. C. and Rossi, Vivien and Céréghino, Régis Inherited biotic protection in a Neotropical pioneer plant. (2011) PLoS ONE, 6 (3). 1-11. ISSN 1932-6203

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018071


Chelonanthus alatus is a bat-pollinated, pioneer Gentianaceae that clusters in patches where still-standing, dried-out stems are interspersed among live individuals. Flowers bear circum-floral nectaries (CFNs) that are attractive to ants, and seed dispersal is both barochorous and anemochorous. Although, in this study, live individuals never sheltered ant colonies, dried-out hollow stems - that can remain standing for 2 years - did. Workers from species nesting in dried-out stems as well as from ground-nesting species exploited the CFNs of live C. alatus individuals in the same patches during the daytime, but were absent at night (when bat pollination occurs) on 60.5% of the plants. By visiting the CFNs, the ants indirectly protect the flowers - but not the plant foliage - from herbivorous insects. We show that this protection is provided mostly by species nesting in dried-out stems, predominantly Pseudomyrmex gracilis. That dried-out stems remain standing for years and are regularly replaced results in an opportunistic, but stable association where colonies are sheltered by one generation of dead C. alatus while the live individuals nearby, belonging to the next generation, provide them with nectar; in turn, the ants protect their flowers from herbivores. We suggest that the investment in wood by C. alatus individuals permitting stillstanding, dried-out stems to shelter ant colonies constitutes an extended phenotype because foraging workers protect the flowers of live individuals in the same patch. Also, through this process these dried-out stems indirectly favor the reproduction (and so the fitness) of the next generation including both their own offspring and that of their siblings, alladding up to a potential case of inclusive fitness in plants.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Thanks to Public Library of Science editor. The definitive version is available at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0018071
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Institution:Other partners > AgroParisTech (FRANCE)
French research institutions > Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique - CIRAD (FRANCE)
French research institutions > Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS (FRANCE)
Université de Toulouse > Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse - Toulouse INP (FRANCE)
French research institutions > Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - INRA (FRANCE)
Université de Toulouse > Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier - UT3 (FRANCE)
Other partners > Université Blaise Pascal - UBP (FRANCE)
Other partners > Centro de Pesquisas do Cacau - CEPLAC (BRAZIL)
Other partners > Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (FRANCE)
Laboratory name:
Deposited On:29 Nov 2013 14:51

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