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Nutrient provisioning of its host myrmecophytic tree by a temporary social parasite of a plant-ant

Déjean A., Petitclerc F., Azémar F., Rossi V.. 2021. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 133 (3) : p. 744-750.

DOI: 10.1093/biolinnean/blab050

One of the most advanced ant¿plant mutualisms is represented by myrmecophytes sheltering colonies of some plant-ant species in hollow structures called domatia. In turn, the myrmecophytes benefit from biotic protection and sometimes nutrient provisioning (myrmecotrophy). Furthermore, over the course of evolution, some ant species have become social parasites of others. In this general context, we studied the relationship between its host trees and Azteca andreae (Dolichoderinae), a temporary social parasite of the plant-ant Azteca ovaticeps, and, as such, obligatorily associated with myrmecophytic Cecropia obtusa trees (Urticaceae). A first experiment showed that the d15N values of the young leaves of Cecropia sheltering a mature A. andreae colony were very similar to those for trees sheltering Azteca alfari or A. ovaticeps, two typical Cecropia mutualists for which myrmecotrophy is known. In a second experiment, by injecting a 15N-labelled glycine solution into locusts given as prey to A. andreae colonies, we triggered an increase in d15N in the young leaves of their host Cecropia. Thus, 15N passed from the prey to the host trees, explaining the outcomes of the first experiment. We discuss these results in light of the notion of "by-product benefits".

Mots-clés : mutualisme; relation plante animal; relation hôte parasite; interactions biologiques; substance nutritive; myrmécologie; guyane française; france; cecropia obtusa; azteca andreae; azteca ovaticeps; azteca alfari

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