I photographed this ant hanging on a Euphorbia flower in Bellwald, Switzerland. The ant probably belongs to the genus Formica, and the plant seems E. cyparissias.
Since my time in Madagascar I pay much more attention to flowers and pollinators than I used to do. I guessed that the ant was probably foraging on the flowers, but the pollen grains on its head and abdomen suggested that it could also act as a pollinator: what was it then, herbivore or pollinator? “Good” interactor or “bad” interactor?I did a bit of research: S. Schurch, M. Pfunder and B. A. Roy experimentally demonstrated the role of ants as pollinators of E. cyparissias in 2000 (OIKOS 88: 6 – 12).
The ecological implications of ants and other animals that can act both as “predators” and pollinators, thus creating interactions that are contextually positive and negative, surely deserves more attention.
- Schurch et al.’s full article: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/classes/biol/7560/folkerts/schurchantsrustfungi.pdf
Some book chapters:
- http://books.google.ch/books?id=DEMpUZSvT1cC&lpg=PA93&ots=jpCQTpyu7N&dq=formica euphorbia pollination&hl=it&pg=PA93#v=onepage&q=formica euphorbia pollination&f=false
- http://books.google.ch/books?id=QUO0WA0Wjk0C&lpg=PA96&ots=pRildjxYSX&dq=formica euphorbia pollination&hl=it&pg=PA96#v=onepage&q=formica euphorbia pollination&f=false
- http://books.google.ch/books?id=Rl0ER01ZI8cC&lpg=PA154&ots=ReEXMi175-&dq=formica euphorbia pollination&hl=it&pg=PA152#v=onepage&q=formica euphorbia pollination&f=false