Asian Myrmecology: Archive - Volume 12


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DOI: 10.20362/am.015009
Asian Myrmecology 15: 015009 (1-12)
article first published online: 13/December/2022

Seed-removal experiments indicate Aphaenogaster ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) as a potential keystone seed disperser of subtropical forest fragments and plantations in China


Forest fragments and plantations have important values in ecological restoration under the global urbanization trend, which represent widely distributed however largely understudied eco-systems in China. Ants are biotic vectors mediating vegetation recovery via seed-dispersal. A keystone ant seed disperser exhibits high rate of seed-removal and provides consistent service directing seeds to microhabitats suitable for establishment. In this study, seed removal by ants was studied at three forested sites in Kunming, Yunnan, China during September - November 2021. An exclusion experiment using papaya seeds for ≥ 72 hours was performed to identify ant species contributing significantly to seed removal at each study site. Seed tracking was conducted at two of the sites, to understand the processes of transporting seeds from deposition spots to ant nest openings. Ants in the genus Aphaenogaster (A.famelica, A. japonica, A. schurri) removed the most seeds, followed by Pheidole (P. fervens, P. nodus) and Nylanderia bourbonica. Seeds carried into Aphaenogaster nest openings were at an average speed of 1.72cm per minute, with Aphaenogaster competing with Pheidole and Ectomomyrmex during seed transportation. The results showed a potential keystone role of the Aphaenogaster ants in seed dispersal, with important conservation implications for altered subtropical forest ecosystems in China.

Seed removal, forest fragments, forest plantations, China, Aphaenogaster

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1Huitong Engineering Cost Management Co Lit. #17 Xiangyan Rd. Kunming, China 650031

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