The relation between ant-plant specificity and the use of host plants as a resource was investigated in the facultative, myrmecophytic orchid, Caularthron bilamellatum (Rchg.f.) Schult. Using stable isotopes, we determined the portion of the ants' diets derived from host plants. We documented that six ant species inhabiting the orchid: (1) derived nutritional benefit from host orchids, and (2) had species-specific levels of extrafloral nectar use. Proportionate contribution of extrafloral nectar to ant diets ranged from 11 to 48%. These results demonstrate extreme interspecific differences in the nutritional benefits received by ants from host orchids. Interspecific differences in nutritional benefits from orchid nectar may be affected by colony size, nutritional needs, behavioral ecology of the ants, and the abundance of alternate food sources.
- Ant-plant interactions
- Carbon isotope
- Extrafloral nectar
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics