ID guide | introduced ants

Behaviourally and genetically distinct populations of an invasive ant provide insight into invasion history and impacts on a tropical ant community

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2007
Authors:K. L. Abbott, Greaves, S. N. J., Ritchie, P. A., Lester, P. J.
Journal:Biological Invasions
Date Published:June 2007

Populations of invasive species often exhibit a high degree of spatial and temporal variability in abundance and hence their effects on resident communities. Here, we examine behavioral, genetic and environmental factors that influence variation in populations of the yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes, on the remote Nukunonu Atoll of Tokelau, Pacific Ocean. Behavioral assays revealed high levels of aggression between two groups of yellow crazy ants from different islands, and genetic analysis confirmed the presence of two distinct populations with unique mitochondrial (mt)DNA haplotypes, designated A and D. The two populations likely resulted from two separate invasion events. The populations exhibited significant differences in abundance of A. gracilipes, with a mean sevenfold difference in relative abundance between the two main haplotypes. The higher density haplotype D population coexisted with 50% fewer other ant species and altered ant community composition. Vegetation composition was also significantly different on islands harbouring the two populations. The results suggest genetic differences could play a role in the spatial and temporal variation in the effect of the yellow crazy ant on a small oceanic atoll. We could not differentiate between genetic effects and effects of vegetation. However, our results indicate that spatial variability in behavior and impacts within populations of invasive species could be in part due to genetic differences, and play a substantial role in influencing the outcome of biological invasions.

Alternate Journal:Biol. Invasions
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith