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Invasive ants disrupt gecko pollination and seed dispersal of the endangered plant Roussea simplex in Mauritius


Hansen, D M; Müller, C B (2009). Invasive ants disrupt gecko pollination and seed dispersal of the endangered plant Roussea simplex in Mauritius. Biotropica, 41(2):202-208.

Abstract

In Mauritius, the endemic blue-tailed day-gecko Phelsuma cepediana is currently the sole pollinator and seed disperser of the critically endangered endemic plant
Roussea simplex (Rousseaceae). The flowers and fruits are often visited by the invasive ant Technomyrmex albipes, which forages on the nectar and fruit pulp, and tends
honeydew-producing mealybugs on the fruits. Here, we experimentally explore how the presence of this alien ant species influences geckos foraging at flowers and fruits of R. simplex by removing and excluding ants from flowers and fruits. Gecko visitation rates to ant-free control flowers and fruits, and flowers and fruits where ants had been removed and excluded, were higher than those to ant-infested flowers and fruits. The resulting seed set of ant-infested flowers was greatly reduced, compared to ant-free control flowers. Similarly, for fruits with ants, very few seeds were likely to be ingested and dispersed by the geckos. Thus, T. albipes monopolizes flowers and fruits of R. simplex, and prevents access of pollinating and seed-dispersing P. cepediana geckos by aggressive interference competition. For a critically endangered plant like R. simplex, this double-disruption of two vital mutualistic interactions is of urgent conservation concern.

Abstract

In Mauritius, the endemic blue-tailed day-gecko Phelsuma cepediana is currently the sole pollinator and seed disperser of the critically endangered endemic plant
Roussea simplex (Rousseaceae). The flowers and fruits are often visited by the invasive ant Technomyrmex albipes, which forages on the nectar and fruit pulp, and tends
honeydew-producing mealybugs on the fruits. Here, we experimentally explore how the presence of this alien ant species influences geckos foraging at flowers and fruits of R. simplex by removing and excluding ants from flowers and fruits. Gecko visitation rates to ant-free control flowers and fruits, and flowers and fruits where ants had been removed and excluded, were higher than those to ant-infested flowers and fruits. The resulting seed set of ant-infested flowers was greatly reduced, compared to ant-free control flowers. Similarly, for fruits with ants, very few seeds were likely to be ingested and dispersed by the geckos. Thus, T. albipes monopolizes flowers and fruits of R. simplex, and prevents access of pollinating and seed-dispersing P. cepediana geckos by aggressive interference competition. For a critically endangered plant like R. simplex, this double-disruption of two vital mutualistic interactions is of urgent conservation concern.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:conservation; Indian Ocean; introduced species; island; Phelsuma cepediana; plant–animal interactions; Rousseaceae; Technomyrmex albipes
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:19 Mar 2009 12:28
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:11
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0006-3606
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-7429.2008.00473.x

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