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Ants affect the distribution and performance of seedlings

of Clusia criuva, a primarily bird-dispersed rain forest tree

Ray Grant

The effects that the ecosystem has on trees and the distribution of their seeds,

play a major part in the success of their reproduction. This dispersal of seeds in an

ecosystem is a very interesting and a complex process that includes various mediums

for these seeds to transport such as bird and ant dispersal. In the past, scientists have

known about some of these effects and causations. However, the specific effects that

ants have on these plants allow them to reproduce without having to compete for

resources such as sunlight and water. This concept shows the importance of studying

this topic.

The scientists who conducted this experiment decided to study specific places

and trees to determine the actual effects taken place. These scientists chose to study

the Clusia criuva tree located in south-east Brazil. The Clusia criuva tree is a well

populated tree in this area and a major part of the ecosystem. These scientists also

decided to test the effect of ants and other species that affect the Clusia criuva tree,

through many different processes. For example, by placing cages under the tree they

monitored the amount of dropped seeds from the Clusia criuva tree to get the average

drop rate from the trees. They also analyzed ants effects on these seeds by using

various different material such as cages and filter paper that did not affect the ants

natural tendencies as mentioned by the researchers. Filter paper did not appear to
deter any ant species or other potential seed disperser. The scientists also observed

the amount of seed taken from the tree by birds through various different experiments

and observations. However, the most important and in depth studying they did was the

observation of how the ants affected these dropped seeds.

Though it may not sound particularly important, the main focus of this study was

analyzing and experimenting what ants did with these seeds. Scientists found the

different ants had different effects on the seeds and that particular ants such as the

Pachycondyla striata and Odontomachus played a big role on moving and displacing

the Clusia criuva seeds. This research also discovered that after the seeds have been

dropped from the Clusia criuva trees, the ants quickly discovered them and on average

they removed around 77% of these dropped seeds, clearly showing the massive effect

that these ants have on the Clusia criuva tree. Through the observations scientist found

that ant would usually bring these seeds to their nests, which soil was tested on proven

to be more nutrient than other random spots of soil, helping the seeds to have a higher

chance of survival. Ants were also found to have taken the seeds out of bird faeces as

well as from under the trees.

Researchers also found results of the germination of Clusia criuva seeds. They

found that while seeds that were eaten by birds did not affect the germination process,

bothe ant removal and removal of seeds from birds increased the success of

germination. This surprising result means that both ant and bird involvement of

distributing the seeds of the Clusia criuva tree not only helps the plants avoid

competition from each other, but also helps the seed in its growing/sprouting process.
The results of this science experiment conclude that ant do have a major role in

the distribution and performance of seedlings from the Clusia criuva trees, and marks

scientific reasons to study and explore further how this effect can help other trees and

Works Cited:

PASSOS, LUCIANA, and PAULO S. OLIVEIRA. "Ants affect the distribution and

performance of seedlings of Clusia criuva, a primarily bird-dispersed rain forest tree."

Journal of Ecology 2002: 1-12. Print.