An update of the world survey of myrmecochorous dispersal distances

Authors


C. Gómez, Dept of Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Girona, Montilivi Campus s/n, ES-17071 Girona, Spain. E-mail: crisanto.gomez@udg.edu

Abstract

We update the global assessment of seed dispersal by ants and test the hypothesis that the body size of seed-dispersing ant species varies with latitude in the same way as dispersal distance. We compiled all published data about seed dispersal distance by myrmecochory through March, 2011. We then broke the data down by vegetation type, geography and taxonomy. We also compiled data on body size (body length) of the seed-dispersing ant species from the studies consulted. Based on 7889 observations, the mean dispersal distance was 1.99 m, although the curve has a long tail extending to 180 m. Considering the mean dispersal distance by ant species and study as independent data, the mean dispersal distance was 2.24 ± 7.19 m (n = 183). Shorter distances are associated with smaller ant species, while the tail of the dispersal curve is due to larger ant species. The mean dispersal distance of myrmecochorous seeds dispersed by ants decreased with increasing latitude, but there was no significant relationship between the body size of dispersing ant species and latitude (i.e. myrmecochorous seed-dispersing ant species do not follow Bergmann's rule). In 1998 we made three predictions: 1) the dispersal distances of the Southern Hemisphere will decrease with as more data from mesophyllous vegetation are obtained; 2) assuming that ant nest density is higher at lower latitudes, the differences in distances between hemispheres would probably decrease with more data; and 3) numerical differences between dispersal distances in mesophyllous and sclerophyllous vegetation zones would increase with more data. The results obtained since 1998 support the only the third prediction. The dispersal distances in mesophyllous vegetation zones are shorter than in the sclerophyllous vegetation zones, and the difference between 1998 have increased. The differences in dispersal distances between hemispheres are consistent with the avoidance of parent–offspring competition (escape hypothesis).

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