Plant Ecology

, Volume 219, Issue 11, pp 1381–1386 | Cite as

Differences in reward removal efficiency and its consequences for seed germination in the ant-dispersed sedge Carex tristachya (Cyperaceae)

  • Koki TanakaEmail author
  • Sumire Haramoto
  • Makoto Tokuda


Reward removal is an essential step for seed dispersal mutualism because residual rewards inhibit germination. Nevertheless, variation in the reward removal efficiency (RRE) among dispersers and its consequences for germination have rarely been reported. In this study, we compared the RREs of two sympatric seed-dispersing ants, Formica japonica and Pheidole noda, using seeds of the ant-dispersed sedge Carex tristachya. Then, we conducted seed sowing experiments in a non-heated glasshouse to evaluate the effect of RRE on the percentage and speed of germination. The majority (85%) of seeds handled by F. japonica had residual elaiosomes, while elaiosomes were completely removed from all seeds handled by P. noda, demonstrating that P. noda has much higher RRE than F. japonica. The seed sowing experiments revealed that RRE, defined by the presence or absence of residual elaiosomes, was not associated with the percentage germination within a year. However, high RRE seeds with no residual elaiosomes germinated significantly faster than low RRE seeds with residual elaiosomes. Similarly, artificial removal of elaiosomes from C. tristachya seeds accelerated germination speed without affecting germination percentage. These results suggest that RRE is one of the most important parameters determining the effectiveness of a seed dispersal agent.


Myrmecochory Elaiosome Germination Seed dispersal effectiveness 



We thank members of the Laboratory of Systems Ecology of Saga University for their assistance in collecting ants. We also appreciate Profs. H. Tatsuta, Y. Hayakawa, and S. Nomakuchi for their valuable comments on the experiment.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of AgricultureSaga UniversitySagaJapan

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