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Ant species identity mediates reproductive traits and allocation in an ant-garden bromeliad

Leroy, Céline and Corbara, Bruno and Pelozuelo, Laurent and Carrias, Jean-François and Dejean, Alain and Céréghino, Régis Ant species identity mediates reproductive traits and allocation in an ant-garden bromeliad. (2012) Annals of Botany, 109 (1). 145-152. ISSN 0305-7364

(Document in English)

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr253


Background and Aims Determining the sources of variation in floral morphology is crucial to understanding the mechanisms underlying Angiosperm evolution. The selection of floral and reproductive traits is influenced by the plant's abiotic environment, florivores and pollinators. However, evidence that variations in floral traits result from mutualistic interactions with insects other than pollinators is lacking in the published literature and has rarely been investigated. We aimed to determine whether the association with either Camponotus femoratus or Pachycondyla goeldii (both involved in seed dispersal and plant protection) mediates the reproductive traits and allocation of Aechmea mertensii, an obligatory ant-garden tank-bromeliad, differently. Methods Floral and reproductive traits were compared between the two A. mertensii ant-gardens. The nitrogen flux from the ants to the bromeliads was investigated through experimental enrichments with stable isotopes (15N). Key Results Camponotus femoratus-associated bromeliads produced inflorescences up to four times longer than did P. goeldii-associated bromeliads. Also, the numbers of flowers and fruits were close to four times higher, and the number of seeds and their mass per fruit were close to 1.5 times higher in C. femoratus than in P. goeldiiassociated bromeliads. Furthermore, the 15N-enrichment experiment showed that C. femoratus-associated bromeliads received more nitrogen from ants than did P. goeldii-associated bromeliads, with subsequent positive repercussions on floral development. Greater benefits were conferred to A. mertensii by the association with C. femoratus compared with P. goeldii ants. Conclusions : we show for the first time that mutualistic associations with ants can result in an enhanced reproductive allocation for the bromeliad A. mertensii. Nevertheless, the strength and direction of the selection of floral and fruit traits change based on the ant species and were not related to light exposure. The different activities and ecological preferences of the ants may play a contrasting role in shaping plant evolution and speciation.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Thanks to Oxford University Press editor. The original PDF can be found at http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/109/1/145
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 > Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (FRANCE)
Laboratory name:
Deposited On:03 Dec 2013 15:32

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