Arthropod fauna of mammal-pollinated Protea humiflora : ants as an attractant for insectivore pollinators?
Protea humiflora Andrews inflorescences are cryptic, but strongly scented and borne close to the ground (geoflorous) for ready access by small, non-flying mammals. During a study of P. humiflora pollination, we found that insectivorous elephant shrews (Macroscelididae : Elephantulus edwardii (A. Smith)) carried higher pollen loads on their snouts than simultaneously-trapped rodent species. Elephant shrews seem to be acquiring pollen while foraging for insects in the inflorescences. Compared with the larger bird-pollinated inflorescences of P. repens (L.) L., P. humiflora inflorescences have a substantially lower mass of arthropods, relatively fewer beetles (12 % of arthropod dry mass) and more ants (13 %). The large numbers of ants in these inflorescences may attract insectivore pollinators, suggesting an indirect, mutualistic relationship between plant, insect and insectivore.
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