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Ecology. 2008 Jul;89(7):1824-36.

Geographic variation in resource dominance-discovery in Brazilian ant communities.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA. donald.feener@utah.edu


A predictive framework for the ecology of species invasions requires that we learn what limits successful invaders in their native range. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is invasive in the United States, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand, and China. Solenopsis invicta appears to be a superior competitor in its introduced range, where it can cause the local extirpation of native species, but little is known about its competitive ability in its native range in South America. Here we examine the competitive ability of S. invicta for food resources in three widely separated Brazilian ant communities. Each of these communities contains 20-40 ant species, 8-10 of which were common and frequently interacted with S. invicta. S. invicta at all three sites was attacked by several species-specific phorid parasitoids, and at one site, two other species were attacked by their own specialized parasitoids. We examined interactions in these local communities for evidence that trade-offs among ant species between resource dominance and resource discovery, and between resource dominance and parasitoid vulnerability facilitate local coexistence. The trade-off between resource dominance and resource discovery was strong and significant only at Santa Genebra, where parasitoids had no effect on the outcome of confrontations at resources. At Bonito, parasitoids significantly reduced the ability of S. invicta, which was the top-ranked behavioral dominant, from defending and usurping food resources from subordinate species. In the Pantanal, S. invicta ranked behind three other ant species in a linear hierarchy of behavioral dominance, and lost the majority of its interactions with a fourth more subordinate species, Paratrechina fulva, another invasive species. Parasitoids of S. invicta were uncommon in the Pantanal, and did not affect its low position in the hierarchy relative to the other two sites. Parasitoids, however, did affect the ability of Linepithema angulatum, the top-ranked behavioral dominant in this community, from defending and usurping resources from behavioral subordinates. These results indicate that both interspecific competition and trait-mediated indirect effects of phorid parasitoids affect the ecological success of the red imported fire ant in its native range, but that the relative importance of these factors varies geographically.

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