When seeds fall from the parent plant or are ejected ballistically as in some myrmecochorous species, the impact produced on the soil may alert seed collectors. Ants can perceive sound transmitted through the ground and could detect the shock waves, the ephemeral movement of the seed or both. Additionally, ants may perceive chemicals from the elaiosome at some distance and be attracted to the seed. The aim of this study was to assess if ants respond to falling seeds and if they are attracted from a distance by the elaiosome. The reaction of four ant species to the seeds of the myrmecochorous Euphorbia characias artificially dropped to the ground or to seeds deposited on top of the soil were studied and the retention time of seeds under those two treatments were measured. The four ant species involved (Tapinoma nigerrimum, Pheidole pallidula, Aphaenogaster senilis and Messor barbarus) did not behave differently in response to either treatment. Retention times of seeds on the soil were similar, whether deposited on soil or left to fall freely from more than a meter height. Elaiosomes did not attract ants from a distance. This is not unexpected since ants that eventually find the seeds can be also seed predators (i.e. granivorous).
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 1997|
- Ant-seed interaction
- Euphorbia characias
- Retention time