April 25, 2013

Microorganisms transported by ants induce changes in floral nectar composition of an ant-pollinated plant

Interactions between plants and ants abound in nature and have significant consequences for ecosystem functioning. Recently, it has been suggested that nectar-foraging ants transport microorganisms to flowers; more specifically, they transport yeasts, which can potentially consume sugars and alter nectar composition. Therefore, ants could indirectly change nectar sugar profile, an important floral feature involved in the plant–pollinator mutualism. But this novel role for ants has never been tested. We here investigate the effects of nectarivorous ants and their associated yeasts on the floral nectar sugar composition of an ant-pollinated plant.