Mechanisms of competitive displacement of native ant fauna by invading Myrmica rubra (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) populations

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Exotic ants have become invasive in many regions around the world, with variable ecological impacts. Postinvasion, native ant communities are often found to be depauperate, though the causes of this apparent lack of coexistence are rarely well known. Myrmica rubra (L.), a Palearctic Myrmecine ant, is currently expanding its range as an invasive in North America. This aggressive ant forms dense, patchy local infestations and appears to aggressively displace native ant fauna. We measured behavioral interactions and rates of recruitment in experimental field assays pitting native foragers against captive colonies of M. rubra at tuna-jelly or aphid baits in uninfested areas of Mt. Desert Island, ME. Behavioral interactions were idiosyncratic with respect to the native opponent, but M. rubra generally showed significantly higher levels of recruitment, aggression, and displacement of native foragers. As with other invasive ant species shown to have broken the "dominance-discovery trade-off," M. rubra was consistently faster to discover baits and disproportionately displaced native foragers, providing a plausible proximate mechanism for native ant exclusion. Finally, we surveyed ant recruitment at baits for 24 h in August 2004 at four sites with varying M. rubra abundance but found little evidence of temporal niche partitioning. Taken together, these results indicate competitive superiority by M. rubra with respect to native ant communities of the northeastern North America and suggest direct aggression and competitive exclusion at food resources can lead to local native displacement.


Garnas, JeffreyGroden, EleanorDrummond, Francis Aeng2014/10/01 06:00Environ Entomol. 2014 Dec;43(6):1496-506. doi: 10.1603/EN14079. Epub 2014 Sep 29.

doi: 10.1603/EN14079

Last updated on 01/31/2017