Section 5
Chapter 4,110

Dispersal for distance? Acacia ligulata seeds and meat ants Iridomyrmex viridiaeneus

Whitney, K.D.

Australian Journal of Ecology 27(6): 589-595


DOI: 10.1046/j.1442-9993.2002.01216.x
Accession: 004109338

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Ant seed dispersal distances are typically small, averaging less than 1 m in published studies. Here, a new record (180 m) for ant seed dispersal distance is reported, and preliminary observations are made on the interaction between meat ants Iridomyrmex viridiaeneus Viehmeyer (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and diaspores of the sandhill wattle, Acacia ligulata A. Cunn. ex Benth. (Fabaceae) in Kinchega National Park, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Iridomyrmex viridiaeneus moved diaspores over distances of 7-180 m (mean 93.9 m) from the source trees to their nests, removed the arils underground and discarded the seeds over a 3000-m2 area surrounding the nest. A germination trial determined that the viability of discarded seeds was 40%, with 80% of the viable seeds in a dormant condition. Although the cumulative effects of I. viridiaeneus on A. ligulata recruitment require further investigation, this study and others raise the possibility that myrmecochorous systems in the Australian arid zone may be characterized by longer dispersal distances than those in other parts of the world. Long-distance seed movement by ants lends credence to the hypothesis that distance dispersal (in contrast to directed dispersal) could be of benefit to myrmecochorous plants.

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