Bayreuther Institut für Terrestrische Ökosystemforschung
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Stadler, B; Dixon, AFG: Why are mutualistic interactions between aphids and ants so rare? , Aphids in Natural and Managed Ecosystems, 271-278 (1998)
Many aphids are very abundant, at least in temperate regions, and co-occur with ants. The honeydew aphids produce is rich in energy and is collected by many ants, which protect the aphids from natural enemies. Therefore, the expectation is that the associations between aphids and ants should lead to mutualistic interactions with benefits to both partners. However, relatively few aphids have developed an obligate association with ants. In this paper some of the ecological constraints (indirect interactions) that restrict the development of myrmecophily are identified. The limitations that arise when direct interactions between aphids and ants occur are demonstrated using A. fabae cirsiiacanthoides and S. oblongus as examples of a facultative and obligate myrmecophile. The implications of the ecological or physiological costs and benefits are discussed with respect to the strength of the association that is likely to develop.
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