Ants mediate foliar structure and nitrogen acquisition in a tank-bromeliad
Article first published online: 4 JUN 2009
© The Authors (2009). Journal compilation © New Phytologist (2009)
Volume 183, Issue 4, pages 1124–1133, September 2009
How to Cite
Leroy, C., Corbara, B., Dejean, A. and Céréghino, R. (2009), Ants mediate foliar structure and nitrogen acquisition in a tank-bromeliad. New Phytologist, 183: 1124–1133. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02891.x
- Issue published online: 10 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 4 JUN 2009
- Received: 2 March 2009Accepted: 9 April 2009
- Aechmea mertensii;
- Camponotus femoratus;
- foliar structure;
- Pachycondyla goeldii;
- phytotelmata contents
- • Aechmea mertensii is a tank-bromeliad that roots on ant-gardens initiated by the ants Camponotus femoratus and Pachycondyla goeldii. Its leaves form compartments acting as phytotelmata that hold rainwater and provide habitats for invertebrates. In this article, we aimed to determine whether the association with either C. femoratus or P. goeldii influenced the vegetative traits of A. mertensii, invertebrate diversity and nutrient assimilation by the leaves.
- • Transmitted light, vegetative traits and phytotelmata contents were compared between the two A. mertensii ant-gardens.
- • Camponotus femoratus colonized partially shaded areas, whereas P. goeldii colonized exposed areas. The bromeliads’ rosettes had a large canopy (C. femoratus ant-gardens), or were smaller and amphora shaped (P. goeldii ant-gardens). There were significant differences in leaf anatomy, as shaded leaves were thicker than exposed leaves. The mean volumes of water, fine particulate organic matter and detritus in C. femoratus-associated bromeliads were three to five times higher than in P. goeldii-associated bromeliads. Moreover, the highest invertebrate diversity and leaf δ15N values were found in C. femoratus-associated bromeliads.
- • This study enhances our understanding of the dynamics of biodiversity, and shows how ant–plant interactions can have trophic consequences and thus influence the architecture of the interacting plant via a complex feedback loop.