Oak Galls Exhibit Ant Dispersal Convergent with Myrmecochorous Seeds

Robert J. Warren, Antoine Guiguet, Chloe Mokadam, John F. Tooker, Andrew R. Deans

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Ants disperse oak galls of some cynipid wasp species similarly to how they disperse seeds with elaiosomes. We conducted choice assays in field and laboratory settings with ant-dispersed seeds and wasp-induced galls found in ant nests and found that seed-dispersing ants retrieve these galls as they do myrmecochorous seeds. We also conducted manipulative experiments in which we removed the putative ant-attracting appendages (“kapéllos”) from galls and found that ants are specifically attracted to kapéllos. Finally, we compared the chemical composition and histology of ant-attracting appendages on seeds and galls and found that they both have similar fatty acid compositions as well as morphology. We also observed seed-dispersing ants retrieving oak galls to their nests and rodents and birds consuming oak galls that were not retrieved by ants. These results suggest convergence in ant-mediated dispersal between myrmecochorous seeds and oak galls. Based on our observations, a protective advantage for galls retrieved to ant nests seems a more likely benefit than dispersal distance, as has also been suggested for myrmecochorous seeds. These results require reconsideration of established ant-plant research assumptions, as ant-mediated seed and gall dispersal appear strongly convergent and galls may be far more abundant in eastern North American deciduous forests than myrmecochorous seeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-301
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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