Temperature Cues Phenological Synchrony in Ant-Mediated Seed Dispersal

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Species-specific climate responses within ecological communities may disrupt the synchrony of co-evolved mutualisms that are based on the shared timing of seasonal events, such as seed dispersal by ants (myrmecochory). The spring phenology of plants and ants coincides with marked changes in temperature, light and moisture. We investigate how these environmental drivers influence both seed release by early and late spring woodland herb species, and initiation of spring foraging by seed-dispersing ants. We pair experimental herbaceous transplants with artificial ant bait stations across north- and south-facing slopes at two contrasting geographic locations. This use of space enables robust identification of plant fruiting and ant foraging cues, and the use of transplants permits us to assess plasticity in plant phenology.


This paper was presented at 96th Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, August 7-12, 2011, Austin, TX, USA.

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