Through laboratory experiments I showed that ants (Lasius platythorax) may play the role of a passive vector for dispersing asexual propagules (gemmae) of Aulacomnium androgynum. Both species are commonly found on dead wood in Swedish forests. Two experiments were performed: one in which ants were allowed to run over a moss tuft and another where gemmae were attached manually to the ants. The first experiment clearly showed that gemmae adhered to the body of the ants as they moved freely over the moss tuft. In total, gemmae adhered to 33% of the ants within less than 2 minutes of exposure to the moss. The second experiment was conducted to determine how long the gemmae stayed adhered, revealing that under laboratory conditions half the gemmae stayed attached for approximately 4 hours before falling off. The results indicate that dispersal of asexual species may be mediated by animal vectors, thereby explaining why seemingly dispersal-limited species may in fact be target-oriented dispersers through animal vector assistance.
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Vol. 112 • No. 1