par Bologna, Audrey;Detrain, Claire
Référence PloS one, 10, 9, e0139365
Publication Publié, 2015
Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Myrmecochorous diaspores bear a nutrient-rich appendage, the elaiosome, attractive to ant workers that retrieve them into the nest, detach the elaiosome and reject the seed intact. While this interaction is beneficial for the plant partner by ensuring its seed dispersal, elaiosome consumption has various effects -positive, negative or none - on ants' demography and survival, depending on both the ant/plant species involved. In this context, the contribution of ants to seed dispersal strongly varies according to the ant/plant pairs considered. In this paper, we investigate whether the dynamics of myrmecochory also vary on a temporal scale, for a given pair of partners: Myrmica rubra ants and Viola odorata seeds. During their first encounter with seeds, ants collect all the diaspores and eat the majority of elaiosomes. Both the harvesting effort and the elaiosome consumption decline when seeds are offered on the next week and completely cease for the following weeks. This is related to a decrease in the number of foragers reaching the food source, as well as to a reduced probability for an ant contacting a seed to retrieve it. Seed retrieval is not reactivated after seven weeks without any encounter with V. odorata seeds. By contrast, naive ant colonies only fed with fruit flies do not show a decline of prey harvesting of which the speed of retrieval even increases over the successive weeks. Myrmecochory may thus be labile at the scale of a fruiting season due to the ability of ants to steeply tune and cease for several months the harvesting of these seemingly poorly rewarding items and to maintain cessation of seed exploitation. The present study emphasizes the importance of a long-lasting follow up of the myrmecochory process, to assess the stability of this ant-plant partnership and to identify mechanisms of adaptive harvesting in ants.