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Disentangling the effects of foliar vs. floral herbivory of leaf-cutting ants on the plant reproductive success of Miconia nervosa (Smith) Triana (Family Melastomataceae)

  • T. Câmara (a1), X. Arnan (a1) (a2), V.S. Barbosa (a1) (a3), R. Wirth (a4), L. Iannuzzi (a5) and I.R. Leal (a6)...

Abstract

Flower and leaf herbivory might cause relevant and negative impacts on plant fitness. While flower removal or damage by florivores produces direct negative effects on plant fitness, folivores affect plant fitness by reducing resource allocation to reproduction. In this study, we examine the effects of both flower and leaf herbivory by leaf-cutting ants on the reproductive success of the shrub species Miconia nervosa (Smith) Triana (Family Melastomataceae) in a fragment of Atlantic Forest in Northeast Brazil. We conducted a randomized block-designed field experiment with nine replicates (blocks), in which three plants per block were assigned to one of the three following treatments: undamaged plants (ant exclusion), leaf-damaged plants (ant exclusion from reproductive organs, but not from leaves), and flower + leaf-damaged plants (no exclusion of ants). We then measured flower production, fruit set, and fruit production. Our results showed that flower + leaf-damaged plants reduced flower production nearly twofold in relation to undamaged plants, while flower set in leaf-damaged plants remained constant. The number of flowers that turned into fruits (i.e., fruit set), however, increased by 15% in flower + leaf-damaged plants, while it slightly decreased in leaf-damaged compared to undamaged plants. Contrastingly, fruit production was similar between all treatments. Taken together, our results suggest a prominent role of ant floral herbivory across different stages of the reproductive cycle in M. nervosa, with no consequences on final fruit production. The tolerance of M. nervosa to leaf-cutting ant herbivory might explain its high abundance in human-modified landscapes where leaf-cutting ants are hyper-abundant.

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Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence Phone: +34 93 581 1312 Fax: +34 93 581 4151 E-mail: x.arnan@creaf.uab.es

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Keywords

Disentangling the effects of foliar vs. floral herbivory of leaf-cutting ants on the plant reproductive success of Miconia nervosa (Smith) Triana (Family Melastomataceae)

  • T. Câmara (a1), X. Arnan (a1) (a2), V.S. Barbosa (a1) (a3), R. Wirth (a4), L. Iannuzzi (a5) and I.R. Leal (a6)...

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