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Competition among visitors to extrafloral nectaries as a source of ecological costs of an indirect defence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2004

Martin Heil
Affiliation:
Lehrstuhl Zoologie III, Biozentrum, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany Corresponding author. Current address: Dept. of Bioorganic Chemistry, Max-Planck-Institute of Chemical Ecology, Beutenberg Campus, Winzerlaer Str. 10, D-07745 Jena, Germany. Email: MHeil@ice.mpg.de
Andrea Hilpert
Affiliation:
Lehrstuhl Zoologie III, Biozentrum, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany
Ralf Krüger
Affiliation:
Lehrstuhl Zoologie III, Biozentrum, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany
K. Eduard Linsenmair
Affiliation:
Lehrstuhl Zoologie III, Biozentrum, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany

Abstract

Extrafloral nectar is an indirect, generally ant-mediated, defence mechanism that is particularly common in tropical plants. This study focuses on interactions among different groups of arthropods visiting extrafloral nectaries of the South-East Asian myrmecophilic plant, Macaranga tanarius. The diurnal activity patterns of arthropods on nectaries were recorded on two occasions, each plant being used once in an untreated state and once after chemical induction of extrafloral nectar flow. Ants, widely regarded as the most important consumers of extrafloral nectar, made up only 60% of all nectary-visiting arthropods. Striking negative relations became obvious between ants and ‘non-ants’, among which two (morpho)species of fly (Grammicomya sp. and Mimegralla sp., both Micropezidae) were most important. On most leaves, either ants or ‘non-ants’, but not both groups, were present at one time. Behavioural observations revealed that many flies actively excluded other arthropods, including ants, from the nectaries or leaves. However, the flies had no detectable defensive effect against herbivores. The presence of these ‘thieves’ of extrafloral nectar therefore can cause ecological costs in terms of reduced presence of ants that consume extrafloral nectar and defend plants.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2004 Cambridge University Press

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