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An indirect mutualism: ants deter seed predators from ovipositing in yucca fruit

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An indirect mutualism arises when the beneficial effect of two species on each other depends upon the presence of a third species. Surveys, fruit dissections, and behavioural observations on yucca (Yucca glauca Nutt.) indicate that wood ants (species of Formica L., 1758) deter oviposition by non-pollinating, seed-predating moths (Tegeticula corruptrix Pellmyr, 1999) but not by pollinating moths (Tegeticula yuccasella (Riley, 1872)). Wood ants also have a direct negative effect on yuccas owing to flower bud feeding damage; however, damage is minor and variable. As wood ants decrease seed-predator oviposition by 38%, there is a net benefit of wood ants on yuccas. Thus, we suggest that an indirect mutualism can occur between wood ants and yuccas when non-pollinating yucca moths are present.

Il existe un mutualisme indirect, lorsque les bénéfices obtenus l'une de l'autre par deux espèces dépendent de la présence d'une troisième espèce. Des inventaires, des dissections de fruits et des observations des comportements indiquent que les fourmis des bois (des espèces de Formica L., 1758) empêchent la ponte sur le yucca (Yucca glauca Nutt.) de papillons de nuit non pollinisateurs et prédateurs de graines (Tegeticula corruptrix Pellmyr, 1999), mais non celle de papillons de nuit pollinisateurs, tels que Tegeticula yuccasella (Riley, 1872). Les fourmis des bois ont aussi un effet négatif direct sur les yuccas en endommageant les boutons floraux par leur alimentation, mais ces dommages sont faibles et variables. Comme les fourmis des bois réduisent de 38 % la ponte des prédateurs des graines, elles apportent un bénéfice net aux yuccas. Nous pensons donc qu'il existe un mutualisme indirect entre les fourmis des bois et les yuccas lorsque les teignes non pollinisatrices du yucca sont présentes.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-05-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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