Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: The evolution of communication in two ant-plant mutualisms


Vittecoq, Marion et al. (2011), Data from: The evolution of communication in two ant-plant mutualisms, Dryad, Dataset,


Myrmecophytes are plants that provide nesting sites and food to ants that protect them against herbivores. Plant signals function to synchronize ant patrolling with the probability of herbivory. We compared the communication signals in two symbioses involving ant and plant pairs that are closely related. The two plants emitted the same volatile compounds upon damage. These compounds are simple molecules common in the plant kingdom. Electroantennography revealed that the two symbiotic ants, as well as several other ant species, were able to perceive these compounds. However, workers of one species responded only to hexanal, while those of the other species responded mostly to methyl salicylate. The two signals involved in the focal symbioses are ‘cheap’ (low metabolic cost), which is consistent with theoretical predictions for the evolution of signalling between partners with convergent interests. They are also not specific, which is expected between plants and broad-spectrum predators such as ants. The fact that different signals are used in the two sister symbioses suggests different mechanisms underlying similar adaptations in the evolution of communication.

Usage Notes