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Diet of two sympatric Pheidole spp. ants in the central Monte desert: implications for seed–granivore interactions

By G. I. Pirk and F. Pasquo


Ants of the genus Pheidole are important seed consumers in several desert ecosystems. In South American deserts, although several Pheidole spp. have been characterized as seed harvesters, studies on their diet and ecological role are still missing. Pheidole spininodis (Mayr) and Pheidole bergi (Mayr) are capable of removing seeds in the central Monte desert. The aim of this study was to quantify and compare the diet of these species and to interpret the results in the context of seed–granivore interactions. Diet was estimated during mid-summer by collecting items brought back to the nest by foragers in ten colonies per species. While P. spininodis was mainly granivorous, P. bergi was mainly insectivorous. However, they both collected *40 % of other types of items. Among seeds, the diet of P. spininodis included mostly grass seeds, whereas the diet of P. bergi was mainly made up of shrub and tree seeds, usually retrieved cooperatively. This behavior allowed P. bergi to carry larger seeds, resulting in diet partitioning in terms of seed size. However, diet of P. spininodis is very similar to that of three sympatric Pogonomyrmex species. Thus, specialized harvester ants remove large quantities of grass seeds in the central Monte desert during the summer, potentially affecting their abundance in the soil seed bank. P. bergi directs its feedin

Year: 2009
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