Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2010, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (11): 1344-1353.DOI: 10.3773/j.issn.1005-264x.2010.11.012

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review of protective ant-plant interaction and its mediation mechanism

ZHANG Shuang, ZHANG Yu-Xin*(), MA Ke-Ming   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
  • Received:2010-02-22 Accepted:2010-08-23 Online:2010-02-22 Published:2010-10-31
  • Contact: ZHANG Yu-Xin


The mutualistic relationship between ants and plants is one of the model systems in ecological and evolutionary research. We review the protective ant-plant interaction and its mediation mechanisms. Plants often offer rewards such as food bodies, domatia or honeydews for ants; in return ants protect the host plant from animal herbivory, increase seed production and quality and enhance the competitive dominance of host plants. The protection effect is positive in most cases even though many biotic and abiotic factors vary significantly. The interaction has a broad range of ecological influences, especially on the species richness and abundances of canopy arthropods. Future research should address the origin and maintenance mechanisms of the mutualism, its impacts on partner ants, its relationship with species invasion and its evolutionary ecology significance.

Key words: ant, coevolution, domatia, food body, honeydew, mutualism, plant