Ecology and Evolution

  • Alexander E. Filippov
  • Stanislav N. Gorb
Part of the Biologically-Inspired Systems book series (BISY, volume 16)


Myrmecochory or plant seed dispersal by ants is a widely spread phenomenon. Seeds of such plants bear specialised lipid-rich appendages, elaiosomes, for attracting ants. Ant workers collect the seeds and usually carry them to their nests. The ant species complex in the ecosystem is continuously changing in time and space, and the question arises about the effect of the spatial distribution of different ant species in the ecosystem on the number and distribution of myrmecochorous plants with different dispersal strategies. In this chapter, we model the population dynamics of two myrmecochorous plants having various dispersal strategies in an ecosystem with two ant species differing in their seed preferences, colony territory size, and location of their waste piles. We find a correlation between the number of nests of different ant species and the stability of the ecosystem. In particular, if one ant species would partially or totally disappear from the system, this could cause dramatic changes in the plant populations as well. Another example treated in this chapter deals with animal aggregations, which are especially common in insects. The aggregations may result from an uneven distribution of resources or because an attraction of individuals to each other may be more efficient in defending the group against predators in general and each member of the group in particular. Tree trunks and other cylindrical objects, where aggregated insects live, represent a specific environment for predator-prey interactions, which is fundamentally different from the planar one. For a better understanding of the predator-prey interaction in a cylindrical space, we applied a numerical model that allows testing the effect of interactions between predator and aggregated prey on the plane and on the cylinder, taking into consideration different abilities of predators to visually detect the prey in these two types of space. It is shown that the aggregation in conjunction with a specific environment may bring additional advantages for the prey. When one prey subgroup aggregates on the other side of the tree trunk and becomes invisible for the predator, it will survive with a higher probability. After all, the predator moving along one side of the tree will finally loose the major group of the prey completely.

Supplementary material

Movie 9.1

(MP4 1098 kb)

Movie 9.2

(MP4 957 kb)

Movie 9.3

(MP4 3168 kb)

Movie 9.4

(MP4 3636 kb)

Movie 9.5

(MP4 8777 kb)

Movie 9.6

(MP4 15535 kb)

Movie 9.7

(MP4 11016 kb)


  1. Alcock J (1982) Natural selection and communication among bark beetles. Fla Entomol 65:17–32Google Scholar
  2. Aukema BH, Raffa KF (2004) Does aggregation benefit bark beetles by diluting predation? Links between a group-colonisation strategy and the absence of emergent multiple predator effects. Ecol Entomol 29:129–138Google Scholar
  3. Beattie AJ (1983) Distribution of ant-dispersed plants. Sonderbl Naturwiss Ver Hamburg 7:249–270Google Scholar
  4. Beattie AJ (1985) The evolutionary ecology of ant-plant mutualisms. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Beattie AJ, Culver DC (1981) The guild of myrmecochores in the herbaceous flora of West Virginia forests. Ecology 62:107–115Google Scholar
  6. Beattie A, Lyons N (1975) Seed dispersal in Viola: adaptations and strategies. Am J Bot 62:714–722Google Scholar
  7. Bengtsson J (2008) Aggregation in non-social insects: an evolutionary analysis. Introductory paper at the Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Alnarp, Sweden, vol 2, pp 1–18Google Scholar
  8. Berg RY (1966) Seed dispersal of Dendromecon: its ecologic, evolutionary, and taxonomic significance. Am J Bot 53:61–73Google Scholar
  9. Bond WJ, Stock WD (1989) The costs of leaving home: ants disperse myrmecochorous seeds to low nutrient sites. Oecologia 81:412–417PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bresinsky A (1963) Bau, Entwicklungsgeschichte und Inhaltsstoffe der Elaiosomen. Studien zur myrmekochoren Verbreitung von Samen und Fruechten. Bibl Bot 126:1–54Google Scholar
  11. Buckley RC (1982) Ant-plant interactions: a world review. In: Buckley RC (ed) Ant-plant interactions in Australia. Dr. W. Junk, The Hague, pp 111–141Google Scholar
  12. Buzatto BA, Requena GS, Machado G (2009) Chemical communication in the gregarious psocid Cerastipsocus sivorii (Psocoptera: Psocidae). J Insect Behav 22(5):388–398Google Scholar
  13. Cocroft RB (2002) Antipredator defense as a limited resource: unequal predation risk in broods of an insect with maternal care. Behav Ecol 13(1):125–133Google Scholar
  14. Cuautle M, Rico-Grey V, Díaz-Castelazo C (2005) Effects of ant behaviour and extrafloral necteries presence on seed dispersal of the neotropical myrmecochore Turnera ulmifolia L. (Turneraceae), in a sand dune matorral. Biol J Linn Soc 86:67–77Google Scholar
  15. Culver D, Beattie A (1978) Myrmecochory in Viola: dynamics of seed-ant interactions in some West Virginia species. J Ecol 66:53–72Google Scholar
  16. Culver D, Beattie A (1980) The fate of Viola seeds dispersed by ants. Am J Bot 67:710–714Google Scholar
  17. Davidson DW, Morton SR (1981a) Competition for dispersal in ant-dispersed plants. Science 213:1259–1261PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Davidson DW, Morton SR (1981b) Myrmecochory in some plants (F. Chenopodiaceae) of the Australian arid zone. Oecologia 50:357–366PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Durieux D, Fassotte B, Deneubourg J-L, Brostaux Y, Vandereycken A, Joie E, Haubruge E, Verheggen FJ (2015) Aggregation behavior of Harmonia axyridis under non-wintering conditions. Insect Sci 22(5):670–678PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Edwards W, Dunlop M, Rodgerson L (2006) The evolution of rewards: seed dispersal, seed size and elaiosome size. J Ecol 94:687–694Google Scholar
  21. Filippov AE, Guillermo-Ferreira R, Gorb SN (2019) “Cylindrical worlds” in biology: does the aggregation strategy give a selective advantage? Biosystems 175:39–46PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Fischer R, Richter A, Hadacek F, Mayer V (2008) Chemical differences between seeds and elaiosomes indicate an adaptation to nutritional needs of ants. Oecologia 155:539–547PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Foster WA, Treherne JE (1980) Feeding, predation and aggregation behaviour in a marine insect, Halobates robustus barber (Hemiptera: Gerridae), in the Galapagos Islands. Proc Roy Soc B 209:539–553Google Scholar
  24. Garrido JL, Rey PJ, Cerda X, Herrera CM (2002) Geographical variation in diaspore traits of an ant-dispersed plant (Helleborus foetidus): are ant community composition and diaspore traits correlated? J Ecol 90:446–455Google Scholar
  25. Giladi I (2006) Choosing benefits or partners: a review of the evidence for the evolution of myrmecochory. Oikos 112:481–492Google Scholar
  26. Gómez C, Espadaler X (1998) Myrmecochorous dispersal distances: a world survey. J Biogeogr 25:573–580Google Scholar
  27. Gorb O (1998) Seed morphology and seed dispersal in two Corydalis species. Ukrainian Bot J 55:62–66Google Scholar
  28. Gorb SN, Gorb EV (1995) Removal rates of seeds of five myrmecochorous plants by the ant Formica polyctena (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Oikos 73:367–374Google Scholar
  29. Gorb SN, Gorb EV (1999a) Effects of ant species composition on seed removal in deciduous forest in Eastern Europe. Oikos 84:110–118Google Scholar
  30. Gorb SN, Gorb EV (1999b) Dropping rates of elaiosome-bearing during transport by ants (Formica polyctena Foerst.): implications for distance dispersal. Acta Oecol 20:47–53Google Scholar
  31. Gorb E, Gorb S (2000) Effects of seed aggregation on the removal rates of elaiosome-bearing Chelidonium majus and Viola odorata seeds carried by Formica polyctena ants. Ecol Res 15:187–192Google Scholar
  32. Gorb E, Gorb S (2003) Seed dispersal by ants in a deciduous forest ecosystem. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  33. Gorb SN, Gorb EV, Puntilla P (2000) Effects of redispersal of seeds by ants on the vegetation pattern in a deciduous forest: a case study. Acta Oecol 21:293–301Google Scholar
  34. Gorb EV, Filippov AE, Gorb SN (2013) Long-term ant-species-dependent dynamics of a myrmecochorous plant community. Arthr-Plant Interact 7(3):277–286Google Scholar
  35. Handegard NO, Boswell KM, Ioannou CC, Leblanc SP, Tjøstheim DB, Couzin ID (2012) The dynamics of coordinated group hunting and collective information transfer among schooling prey. Curr Biol 22:1213–1217PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Handel SN, Fisch B, Schatz GE (1981) Ants disperse a majority of herbs in the Mesic forest community in New York state. Bull Torrey Bot Club 108:430–437Google Scholar
  37. Hassell MP, May RM (1974) Aggregation of predators and insect parasites and its effect on stability. J Anim Ecol 43(2):567–594Google Scholar
  38. Hassell MP, Varley GC (1969) New inductive population model for insect parasites and its bearing on biological control. Nature 223:1133–1137PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Higashi S, Tsuyuzaki S, Ohara M, Ito F (1989) Adaptive advantages of ant-dispersed seeds in the myrmecochorous plant Trillium tschonoskii (Liliaceae). Oikos 54:383–394Google Scholar
  40. Hodges RJ, Birkinshaw LA, Farman DI, Hall DR (2002) Intermale variation in aggregation pheromone release in Prostephanus truncatus. J Chem Ecol 28:1665–1674PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  42. Horvitz CC, Schemske DW (1986) Seed dispersal of a neotropical myrmecochore: variation in removal rates and dispersal distance. Biotropica 18:319–323Google Scholar
  43. Hughes L, Westoby M (1990) Removal rates of seeds adapted for dispersal by ants. Ecology 71:138–148Google Scholar
  44. Hughes L, Westoby M (1992) Fate of seeds adapted for dispersal by ants in Australian sclerophyll vegetation. Ecology 73:1285–1299Google Scholar
  45. Johannesen A, Dunn AM, Morrell LJ (2014) Prey aggregation is an effective olfactory predator avoidance strategy. Peer J 2:e408PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Keeler KH (1989) Ant-plant interactions. In: Abrahamson WG (ed) Plant-animal interactions. McGraw-Hill, New York, pp 207–242Google Scholar
  47. Kidd NAC (1982) Predator avoidance as a result of aggregation in the Grey pine aphid, Schizolachnus pineti. J Animal Ecol 51:397–412Google Scholar
  48. Kjellsson G (1985) Seed fate in a population of Carex pilulifera L. I Seed dispersal and ant seed mutualism. Oecologia 67:416–423PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Klein M, Ladd T, Lawrence K (1973) Simultaneous exposure of phenethyl propionate-eugenol (7:3) and virgin female japanese beetle as a lure. J Econ Entomol 66:373–374Google Scholar
  50. Lanza J, Schmitt MA, Awad AB (1992) Comparative chemistry of elaiosomes of 3 species of Trillium. J Chem Ecol 18:209–221PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Lengyel S, Gove AD, Latimer AM, Majer JD, Dunn RR (2009) Ants sow the seeds of global diversification in flowering plants. PLoS One 4(5):e5480PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  52. Lockwood JA, Story RN (1985) Bifunctional pheromone in the first instar of the southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula (L.) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae): its characterization and interaction with other stimuli. Ann Entomol Soc Am 78:474–479Google Scholar
  53. Lorenzo Figueiras AN, Lazzari CR (1998) Aggregation behaviour and interspecific responses in three species of Triatominae. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 93(1):133–137PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Lotka AJ (1925) Elements of physical biology. Williams & Wilkins, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  55. Mark S, Olesen JM (1996) Importance of elaiosome size to removal of ant-dispersed seeds. Oecologia 107:95–101PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Mayer V, Ölzant S, Fischer RC (2005) Myrmecochorous seed dispersal in temperate regions. In: Forget P.-M, Lambert JE, Hulme PE, Vander Wall, SB (eds) Seed fate: predation, dispersal and seedling establishment. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, 176–195Google Scholar
  57. Miller RC (1922) The significance of the gregarious habit. Ecology 3:122–126Google Scholar
  58. Minoli SA, Baraballe S, Lorenzo Figueiras AN (2007) Daily rhythm of aggregation in the haematophagous bug Triatoma infestans (Heteroptera: Reduviidae). Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 102(4):449–454PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Morrell LJ, James R (2007) Mechanisms for aggregation in animals: rule success depends on ecological variables. Behav Ecol 19:193–201Google Scholar
  60. Nathan R, Muller-Landau HC (2000) Spatial patterns of seed dispersal, their determinants, and consequences for recruitment. Trends Ecol Evol 15:278–285PubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Ness JHJ, Bronstein L, Andersen AN, Holland JN (2004) Ant body size predicts the dispersal distance of ant-adapted seeds: implications of small-ant invasions. Ecology 85:1244–1250Google Scholar
  62. New TR, Collins NM (1987) “Herd-grazing” in tropical Psocoptera. Entomol Monthl Mag 123:229–230Google Scholar
  63. Nicholson AJ, Bailey VA (1935) The balance of animal populations. Part I. Proc Zool Soc Lond B 3:551–598Google Scholar
  64. O’Ceallachain DP, Ryan MF (1977) Production and perception of pheromones by the beetle Tribolium confusum. J Insect Physiol 23:1303–1309Google Scholar
  65. Oostermejer JGB (1989) Myrmecochory in Polygala vulgaris L., Luzula campestris (L.) DC and Viola curtisii Forster in a Dutch dune area. Oecologia 78:302–311Google Scholar
  66. Poland TM, Borden JH (1997) Attraction of a bark beetle predator, Thanasimus undatulus (Coleoptera: Cleridae), to pheromones of the spruce beetles and two secondary bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytidae). J Entomol Soc Br Columbia 94:35–41Google Scholar
  67. Pulliam HR (1973) On the advantages of flocking. J Theor Biol 38:419–422PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Raffa KF (2001) Mixed messages across multiple trophic levels: the ecology of bark beetle chemical communication systems. Chemoecology 11:49–65Google Scholar
  69. Requena GS, Buzatto BA, Machado G (2007) Habitat use, phenology, and gregariousness of the Neotropical psocopteran Cerastipsocus sivorii (Psocoptera: Psocidae). Sociobiology 49(2):1–19Google Scholar
  70. Rico-Gray V, Oliveira PS (2007) The ecology and evolution of ant-plant interactions. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  71. Riipi M, Alatalo RV, Lindstrom L, Mappes J (2001) Multiple benefits of gregariousness cover detectability costs in aposematic aggregations. Nature 413:512–514PubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Ruxton GD, Sherratt TN (2006) Aggregation, defence and warning signals: the evolutionary relationship. Proc Roy Soc B 273:2417–2424Google Scholar
  73. Schellinck J, White T (2011) A review of attraction and repulsion models of aggregation: methods, findings and a discussion of model validation. Ecol Model 222:1897–1911Google Scholar
  74. Schlyter F, Birgesson G (1999) Forest beetles. In: Hardie J, Minks AK (eds) Pheromones in non-Lepidopteran insects associated with agricultural plans. CAB International, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  75. Sernander R (1906) Entwurf einer Monographie der europäischen Myrmekochoren. K Sven Vetenskapsacad Handl 41:1–410Google Scholar
  76. Smallwood J (1982) Nest relocation in ants. Insect Soc 29:138–147Google Scholar
  77. Soukup VG, Holman RT (1987) Fatty acids of seeds of North American pedicillate Trillium-species. Phytochemistry 26:105–108Google Scholar
  78. Stephens PA, Sutherland WJ (1999) Consequences of the Allee effect for behaviour, ecology and conservation. Trends Ecol Evol 14:401–405PubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. Strömbom D, Mann RP, Wilson AM, Hailes S, Morton AJ, Sumpter DJT, King AJ (2014) Solving the shepherding problem: heuristics for herding autonomous, interacting agents. J R Soc Interface 11:20140719PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  80. Thompson WR (1924) La theorie mathematique de l’action des parasites entomophages et le facteur du hasard. Ann Fae Sci Marseille 2:69–89Google Scholar
  81. Thompson SN (1973) A review and comparative characterization of the fatty acid compositions of seven insect orders. Comp Biochem Physiol A 45:467–482Google Scholar
  82. Treherne JE, Foster WA (1980) The effects of group size on predator avoidance in a marine insect. Anim Behav 28:1119–1122Google Scholar
  83. Treherne JE, Foster WA (1981) Group transmission of predator avoidance in a marine insect: the Trafalgar effect. Anim Behav 29:911–917Google Scholar
  84. Treherne JE, Foster WA (1982) Group size and anti-predator strategies in a marine insect. Anim Behav 32:536–542Google Scholar
  85. Turchin P, Kareiva P (1989) Aggregation in Aphis varians: an effective strategy for reducing predation risk. Ecology 70:1008–1016Google Scholar
  86. Ulbrich E (1928) Biologie der Fruechte und Samen (Karpobiologie). Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  87. Vite JP, Pitman GB (1969) Aggregation behaviour of Dendroctonus brevicomis in response to synthetic pheromones. J Insect Physiol 15:1617–1622Google Scholar
  88. Volterra V (1928) Variations and fluctuations of the number of individuals in animal species living together. J Cons Perm Int Explor Mer 3:3–51Google Scholar
  89. Watt KEF (1959) A mathematical model for the effect of densities of attacked and attacking species on the number attacked. Can Ent 91:129–144Google Scholar
  90. Watt PJ, Nottimgham SF, Young S (1997) Toad tadpole aggregation behaviour: evidence for a predator avoidance function. Anim Behav 54:865–872PubMedGoogle Scholar
  91. Wertheim B, Vet LEM, Dicke M (2003) Increased risk of parasitism as ecological costs of using aggregation pheromones: laboratory and field study of Drosophila-Leptopilina interaction. Oikos 100:269–282Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander E. Filippov
    • 1
  • Stanislav N. Gorb
    • 2
  1. 1.Donetsk Institute for Physics and EngineeringDonetskUkraine
  2. 2.Zoological InstituteKiel UniversityKielGermany

Personalised recommendations