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Oecologia. 2008 May;156(2):411-21. doi: 10.1007/s00442-008-0997-y.

Ecological dominance of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, in its native range.

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  • 1USDA-ARS-South American Biological Control Laboratory, Bolivar 1559 (B 1686EFA), Hurlingham, Buenos Aires, Argentina. trapisonda@tutopia.com


Despite the widespread impacts invasive species can have in introduced populations, little is known about competitive mechanisms and dominance hierarchies between invaders and similar taxa in their native range. This study examines interactions between the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, and other above-ground foraging ants in two habitats in northeastern Argentina. A combination of pitfall traps and baits was used to characterize the ant communities, their dominance relationships, and to evaluate the effect of phorid flies on the interactions. Twenty-eight ant species coexisted with S. invicta in a gallery forest gap, whereas only ten coexisted with S. invicta in a xerophytic forest grassland. S. invicta was the most numerically dominant species in the richest and complex habitat (gallery forest); however it performed better as discoverer and dominator in the simpler habitat. S. invicta was active during day and night. In spite of its poor capacity to discover resources, S. invicta showed the highest ecological dominance and the second-best behavioral dominance after Camponotus blandus. S. invicta won 78% of the interactions with other ants, mostly against its most frequent competitor, Pheidole cf. obscurithorax, dominating baits via mass recruitment and chemical aggression. P. cf. obscurithorax was the best food discoverer. S. invicta won 80% of the scarce interactions with Linepithema humile. Crematogaster quadriformis was one of the fastest foragers and the only ant that won an equal number of contests against S. invicta. The low presence of phorid flies affected the foraging rate of S. invicta, but not the outcome of interspecific interactions. This study revealed that the red imported fire ant ecologically dominated other terrestrial ants in its native range; however, other species were able to be numerically dominant or co-dominant in its presence.

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