The Importance of Poneromorph Ants for Seed Dispersal in Altered Environments

Fabio Souto Almeida, Antonio José Mayhe-Nunes, Jarbas M Queiroz

Abstract


Changes in species composition and an increase in the probability of local or regional extinctions alone are considered alarming consequences of human disturbances. However, these changes bring other damages that have passed unnoticed by scientists, such as the loss of ecological interactions. In the present study, we assessed fragments of secondary forest and pastures focusing on two aspects of the seed dispersal process: removal rate and dispersal distance. We collected data in forest fragments named Forest 1 (6 ha), Forest 2 (36 ha), and Forest 3 (780 ha), and in a pasture in the municipality of Vassouras, Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil. In each site, we established 40 observation stations containing six seeds of Carica papaya L. (papaya) and monitored seed removal for 2 h at each station. Seventeen ant species removed a total of 316 seeds (32.92% of the seeds). The species that removed the highest number of seeds was Pachycondyla striata Fr. Smith, followed by Odontomachus chelifer (Latreille). The seed removal rate was significantly higher (P < 0.05, Tukey test) in the forest fragment where larger species were more frequent. The average removal distance was significantly longer in two out of three forest fragments (P < 0.05, Tukey test). Larger ants removed more seeds and for longer distances. Hence, seed dispersal was increased by the presence of large-bodied ant species and their high frequency in forest fragments seed dispersal.

Keywords


biodiversity; communities; diaspores; myrmecochory; human disturbances

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13102/sociobiology.v60i3.229-235

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