Spatial variation in interaction of the semi-myrmecophyte Humboldtia brunonis (Fabaceae) with ants and other invertebrates

Despite a long history of investigations on protective ant-plant interactions, since the late 19 century (Thomas Belt 1874), a comprehensive quantitative understanding of the adaptations that facilitate these associations between plants and ants and the differential importance of these adaptations in predicting the benefits and costs to each partner and in shedding light on the evolutionary trajectories of this ecologically widespread interaction is yet to be realized. In the present study we have experimentally shown that the identity of the ant species (T. albipes), the abundance of this ant species and the composition of Extra Floral Nectar (EFN) produced by floral buds and young leaves of the ant-plant Humboldtia brunonis populations contribute to facilitating protection of floral bud inflorescences and young leaves of H. brunonis populations in a particular site. Although previous studies have independently shown that the identity of the ant partner are important in predicting the protective outcome of the interaction between a plant species and its interacting ants, few studies have examined these two factors along with an examination of the EFN volume, composition, viscosity, and differential utilization of these qualitatively different EFNs produced by different populations of the same ant plant.

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Author Megha Shenoy
Institution Indian Institute of Science
Advisor Renee M. Borges
Expected graduation 2007