Variation in the use of orchid extrafloral nectar by ants

Brian L. Fisher, Leonel da Silveira Lobo Sternberg, David Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-266
Number of pages4
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1990


  • Ant-plant interactions
  • Carbon isotope
  • Caularthron
  • Extrafloral nectar
  • Mutualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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