The ecological effects of an invasive seed-dispersing ant

Myrmecochory, or seed dispersal by ants, is an important ecosystem service. North American deciduous forests are a hotspot of myrmecochory, with 30-40% of woodland forbs being dispersed by ants, including many well-known plants such as violets, trilliums, bloodroot, and wild ginger. Aphaenogaster rudis is a keystone seed-disperser responsible for ~74 % of seed dispersal events in these ecosystems. Myrmica rubra is an introduced seed-disperser from Europe that, like many other introduced ants, form large, expansive colonies in its introduced range. This project investigates the ecological impacts of M. rubra on native ants, such as A. rudis, and subsequently on communities of woodland forbs. Further, many myrmecochorous plants that are dispersed by M. rubra in their native range have also been introduced, such as Chelidonium majus. We will investigate if interactions between invasive ants and plants facilitate their success and in turn how this will affect native plant communities

Principal Investigator: Megan Frederickson

Researchers:  Kirsten Prior, Shannon Meadley Dunphy

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