Interference competition by Argentine ants displaces native ants: implications for biotic resistance to invasion

Alexei David Rowles, Dennis Jefferie O'Dowd

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The Argentine ant Linepithema humile (Dolichoderinae) is one of the most widespread invasive ant species in the world. Throughout its introduced range, it is associated with the loss or reduced abundance of native ant species. The mechanisms by which these native species are displaced have received limited attention, particularly in Australia. The role of interference competition in the displacement of native ant species by L. humile was examined in coastal vegetation in central Victoria (southeastern Australia). Foragers from laboratory colonies placed in the field consistently and rapidly displaced the tyrant ant Iridomyrmex bicknelli, the big-headed ant Pheidole sp. 2, and the pony ant Rhytidoponera victoriae from baits. Numerical and behavioural dominance enabled Argentine ants to displace these ants in just 20 min; the abundance of native species at baits declined 3.5-24 fold in direct relation to the rapid increase in L. humile. Most precipitous was the decline of I. bicknelli, even though species in this typically dominant genus have been hypothesized to limit invasion of L. humile in Australia. Interspecific aggression contributed strongly to the competitive success of Argentine ants at baits. Fighting occurred in 50-75 of all observed interactions between Argentine and native ants. This study indicates that Argentine ants recruit rapidly, numerically dominate, and aggressively displace from baits a range of Australian native ant species from different subfamilies and functional groups. Such direct displacement is likely to reduce native biodiversity and indirectly alter food web structure and ecosystem processes within invaded areas. Biotic resistance to Argentine ant invasion from native ants in this coastal community in southeastern Australia is not supported in this study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73 - 85
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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