Absorption of ant-provided carbon dioxide and nitrogen by a tropical epiphyte

Article metrics

Abstract

ALTHOUGH ant-plant mutualisms have been described in many ecosystems, the magnitude of the direct benefits from such relationships are hard to quantify. In Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia, stunted 'kerangas' forests occur on nutrient-poor sandstone hills1–3. As trees are widely spaced and have a sparse leaf area, a significant amount of light reaches the tree trunks and enables a diverse community of epiphytes to thrive there4. One of these epiphytes, Dischidia major (Vahl) Merr. (Asclepiadaceae), has evolved unusual methods for enhancing carbon and nitrogen acquisition. We show here that a mutualistic relationship exists between ants of the genus Philidris and their host, D. major. Using stable isotope analysis, we calculate that 39% of the carbon in occupied host plant leaves is derived from ant-related respiration, and that 29% of the host nitrogen is derived from debris deposited into the leaf cavities by ants.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Anderson, J. A. R. Gdns Bull. Singapore 20, 131–228 (1963).

  2. 2

    Brünig, E. F. W. O. UNESCO Symp. Ecol. Res. Humid Trop. Vegn, Kuching 1963, 289–313 (1965).

  3. 3

    Ashton, P. S. Malayan Nature J. 24, 151–162 (1971).

  4. 4

    Janzen, D. H. Biotropica 6, 237–259 (1974).

  5. 5

    Shattuck, S. O. Sociobiology 21, 1–181 (1992).

  6. 6

    Kerr, A. F. G. Br. Scient. Proc. R. Dubl. Soc. 13, 293–309 (1912).

  7. 7

    Griffith, W. Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 20, 387–390 (1846).

  8. 8

    Huxley, C. R. Biol. Rev. 55, 321–340 (1980).

  9. 9

    Huxley, C. R. in Insects and the Plant Surface (eds Juniper, B. & Southwood, R.) 255–282 (Arnold, London, 1986).

  10. 10

    Winter, K., Wallace, B. J., Stocker, G. C. & Roksandic, Z. Oecologia 57, 129–141 (1983).

  11. 11

    Treseder, K. K. thesis, Univ. Utah (1994).

  12. 12

    Farquhar, G. D., Ehleringer, J. R. & Hubick, K. T. A. Rev. Pl. Physiol. molec. Biol. 40, 503–537 (1989).

  13. 13

    Keeling, C. D., Mook, W. G. & Tans, P. P. Nature 277, 121–123 (1979).

  14. 14

    DeNiro, M. J. & Epstein, S. Geol. Soc. Am. Abstr. Prog. 8, 834–835 (1976).

  15. 15

    DeNiro, M. J. & Epstein, S. Geochim. cosmochim. Acta 42, 495–506 (1978).

  16. 16

    Schoeninger, M. J. & DeNiro, M. J. Geochim. cosmochim. Acta 48, 625–639 (1984).

  17. 17

    Davidson, D. W. & Epstein, W. W. in Vascular Plants as Epiphytes (ed. Lüttge, U.) 200–233 (Springer, Heidelberg, 1989).

  18. 18

    Rico-Gray, V., Barber, J. T., Thien, L. B., Ellgaard, E. G. & Toney, J. J. Am. J. Bot. 76, 603–608 (1989).

  19. 19

    Benzing, D. H. Bull. Torrey Bot. 97, 109–115 (1970).

  20. 20

    Madison, M. Selbyana 5, 107–115 (1979).

  21. 21

    Gay, H. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. Lond. 50, 221–233 (1993).

  22. 22

    Huxley, C. R. New Phytol. 80, 231–268 (1978).

  23. 23

    Rickson, F. R. Am. J. Bot. 66, 87–90 (1979).

  24. 24

    Fisher, B. L., Sternberg, L. S. L. & Price, D. Oecologia 83, 263–266 (1990).

  25. 25

    Ehleringer, J. R. & Osmond, C. B. in Plant Physiological Ecology (eds Pearcy, R. W., Ehleringer, J. R., Mooney, H. A. & Rundel, P. W.) 281–300 (Chapman & Hall, London, 1991).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Treseder, K., Davidson, D. & Ehleringer, J. Absorption of ant-provided carbon dioxide and nitrogen by a tropical epiphyte. Nature 375, 137–139 (1995) doi:10.1038/375137a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.