Good article on leaf preferences in wild. Very informative!

Post here for any notes or records of sightings in the wild. Behaviour, nuptial flights etc, everything about these ants from the Tropics!
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Acromyrmexbob
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Good article on leaf preferences in wild. Very informative!

Post by Acromyrmexbob » Sat Oct 26, 2019 2:17 pm

This paper looks at factors affecting distribution of colonies based on the attractiveness of leaves in old forest and new forest. Very relevant to our constant hunt for suitable forage!!

Full paper is here.....
http://leafcuttingants.com/pdffiles/Far ... thesis.pdf

Abstract of paper....

I evaluated the hypothesis that leaf-cutting ants are more common in early succes-
sional forests than in old-growth forests because pioneer species, which dominate in
early successional habitats, appear more susceptible to leafcutters than shade-tolerant
species, which dominate primary forests (palatable forage hypothesis). The relative
importance of pioneer and shade-tolerant species as plant resources for leaf-cutting
ant colonies was evaluated (1) by literature review of leaf-cutting ants' diet, and (2)
experimentally, using field assays to determine leafcutter's selectivity. Pioneer species
were harvested three times more frequently than shade-tolerant species and made up
the largest component of the diet in all the studies reviewed. The amount harvested
was not correlated with the plant species abundance. In addition, leaves from pioneer
plants were selected eight times more than leaves from shade-tolerant species in the
field assays. These results support the palatable forage hypothesis. Leafcutters
probably select pioneer leaves because of their low level of chemical defenses and
high nutrient content. The high availability of pioneer species in early successional
forest probably decreases the cost to locate palatable resources. Therefore, early
successional habitats support more ant colonies than old-growth forests. On the other
hand, the effective defense mechanisms of mature plant species and the high
dispersion of palatable plants could explain the low density of leaf-cutting ant
colonies in old-growth forests. The palatable forage hypothesis is compared with
other hypotheses that explain leaf-cutting ant density. The preference of foundress
queens for forest clearings, the dependence of small colonies on herbs, and the
importance of pioneer plant species for mature colonies (palatable forage hypothesis)
can be considered complementary, because they focus on different stages of the
colony's life history. Consequently, the availability of pioneer plants appears to be
one of the most influential factors determining mature leaf-cutting ant nest densities
in Neotropical forests.

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