Effects of ants on pollinator performance in a distylous pericarpial nectary-bearing Rubiaceae in Brazilian Cerrado
Keywords:Apis mellifera, Brazilian Cerrado, Ectatoma brunneum, entomophily, Insect-plant interactions
Besides the eff ectiveness of floral visitors, to better understand pollination systems is necessary to consider the role of predators. Ants are ubiquitous on the vegetation, especially on plants bearing extrafloral (EFNs) and pericarpial nectaries (PNs). Both EFNs and PNs reward ants which in turn provide to plants effective protection against herbivores. However, ants can also repel pollinators and cause an indirect cost for the plant partner, although the role of ants on pollinators’ performance has rarely been assessed in Neotropics, mainly on PN-bearing plants. Here, our main aim was, through an experimental field study in terms of ant’s presence versus absence, to test the hypothesis that ants dissuade floral visitors by decreasing the time spent during visits on the PN-bearing Declieuxia fruticosa. Additionally, we recorded floral phenology, and quantified and qualified floral visits. We showed that bees were the most frequent pollinators and the presence of ants dissuades them. In ant presence, pollinators were on average 30% faster than without ants. Since D. fruticosa produces fruits mainly after cross-pollination, the role of ants may be profi table to plants as they induce pollinators to do shorter visits and search for other fl owers in conspecifi c plants. Therefore, pollinators avoid stay at longer on plants with ants in order to avoid attacks, which may contribute to plant outcrossing. However, whether positive or negative the effects of ants on D. fruticosa reproduction are, they remain to be studied.
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