Stuble, Katharine L. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Evolution and occurrence
- Keystone mutualists
- Future work
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Seed dispersal by ants. Myrmecochory is a mutualistic (mutually beneficial) interaction between ants and plants, through which seeds are dispersed by ants. In myrmecochory, ants (Fig. 1) disperse the seeds of plants while themselves gaining a food resource from the seeds. Seeds of ant-dispersed plant species typically have a special, lipid-rich appendage known as an elaiosome (Fig. 2) that is attractive to ants. Ants find elaiosome-bearing seeds on the surface of the ground after they have fallen off the parent plant. The ants pick up these seeds and carry them back to the nest, where the elaiosome is removed and fed to the larvae (juvenile ants). The ants then discard the seed, either within chambers inside the ant nest or in aboveground trash piles maintained by the ants. See also: Biodiversity; Hymenoptera; Lipid; Mutualism; Population dispersal; Seed
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