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Florida Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex badius, Relies on Germination to Consume Large Seeds.

Title: The Florida Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex badius, Relies on Germination to Consume Large Seeds.
Name(s): Tschinkel, Walter R, author
Kwapich, Christina L, author
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Journal Article
Date Issued: 2016-11-28
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: The Florida harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex badius, is one of many ant species and genera that stores large numbers of seeds in damp, underground chambers for later consumption. A comparison of the sizes of seeds recovered from storage chambers with those of seed husks discarded following consumption revealed that the used seeds are far smaller than stored seeds. This difference in use-rate was confirmed in field and laboratory colonies by offering marked seeds of various sizes and monitoring the appearance of size-specific chaff. Because foragers collect a range of seed sizes but only open small seeds, large seeds accumulate, forming 70% or more of the weight of seed stores. Major workers increase the rates at which small and medium seeds are opened, but do not increase the size range of opened seeds. Experiments limiting ant access to portions of natural seed chambers showed that seeds germinate during storage, but that the ants rapidly remove them. When offered alongside non germinating seeds, germinating seeds were preferentially fed to larvae. The rate of germination during the annual cycle was determined by both burial in artificial chambers at various depths and under four laboratory temperatures. The germination rate depends upon the species of seed, the soil/laboratory temperature and/or the elapsed time. The seasonal soil temperature cycle generated germination patterns that vary with the mix of locally-available seeds. Taken together, exploitation of germination greatly increases the resources available to the ants in space and time. While the largest seeds may have the nutritional value of 15 small seeds, the inability of workers to open large seeds at will precludes them from rapid use during catastrophic events. The harvester ant's approach to seed harvesting is therefore two-pronged, with both immediate and delayed payoffs arising from the tendency to forage for a wide variety of seeds sizes.
Identifier: FSU_pmch_27893844 (IID), 10.1371/journal.pone.0166907 (DOI), PMC5125654 (PMCID), 27893844 (RID), 27893844 (EID), PONE-D-16-33448 (PII)
Publication Note: This NIH-funded author manuscript originally appeared in PubMed Central at
Subject(s): Animals
Feeding Behavior/physiology
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU
Is Part Of: PloS one.
Issue: iss. 11, vol. 11

Choose the citation style.
Tschinkel, W. R., & Kwapich, C. L. (2016). The Florida Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex badius, Relies on Germination to Consume Large Seeds. Plos One. Retrieved from