The relocation of ant nest entrances: Potential consequences for ant‐dispersed seeds


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The rate at which ant nests relocate may affect the fate of ant‐dispersed seeds by influencing nutrient and seed accumulation in localized areas. In this study, the movement of ant nest entrances was monitored in fixed quadrats in dry sclerophyll woodland in Kuringai Chase National Park, NSW. Changes in entrance location were rapid for most species, with few entrances remaining in use for more than 6 months. Approximately 30% of entrances that closed were subsequently re‐opened. There was no obvious seasonal pattern in entrance relocation. After 1 year, between 5 and 40% of the ground surface of the quadrats had been within 10 cm of a nest entrance. New nest entrances did not cluster near old entrances, indicating that nest entrance relocation may be accompanied by changes in underlying nest structure. Nutrient levels in soil samples from active nests of Rhytidoponera metallica, Aphaenogaster longiceps, Pheidole sp. 1 and Iridomyrmex sp. 8 did not differ significantly from random locations. The rapid changes in entrance location and the lack of nutrient enrichment may be the result of continual and progressive underground shifts in nest location. Such shifts have three potential consequences for seeds that remain buried within the nests. First, seeds will not benefit following germination by being in a nutrient‐rich microsite. Second, a proportion of seeds collected by harvester ant species may escape predation if left in an abandoned section of the nest. Third, concentrations of seeds in localized areas may be reduced, leading to a reduction in competition between establishing seedlings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1991


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