ID guide | introduced ants

Infiltration of a facultative ant–plant mutualism by the introduced Argentine ant: effects on mutualist diversity and mutualism benefits

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2015
Journal:Ecological Entomology
Pagination:n/a - n/a
Date Published:Jan-04-2015
Keywords:Ant–plant interaction, cactus, extrafloral nectaries, facultative mutualism, herbivory, invasion, mutualist

1. Ant–plant mutualisms have been the focus of considerable empirical research, but few studies have investigated how introduced ants affect these interactions. Using 2 years of survey data, this study examines how the introduced Argentine ant [Linepithema humile(Mayr)] differs from native ants with respect to its ability to protect the extrafloral nectary-bearing coast barrel cactus (Ferocactus viridescens) in Southern California.

2. Eighteen native ant species visited cacti in uninvaded areas, but cacti in invaded areas were primarily visited by the Argentine ant. The main herbivore of the coast barrel cactus present at the study sites is a leaf-footed bug (Narnia wilsoni).

3. Herbivore presence (the fraction of surveys in which leaf-footed bugs were present on individual cacti) was negatively related to ant presence (the fraction of surveys in which ants were present on individual cacti). Compared with cacti in uninvaded areas, those in invaded areas were less likely to have herbivores and when they did had them less often.

4. Seed mass was negatively related to herbivore presence, and this relationship did not differ for cacti in invaded areas versus those in uninvaded areas.

5. Although the Argentine ant might provide superior protection from herbivores, invasion-induced reductions in ant mutualist diversity could potentially compromise plant reproduction. The cumulative number of ant species on individual cacti over time was lower in invaded areas and was associated with a shortened seasonal duration of ant protection and reduced seed mass. These results support the hypothesis that multiple partners may enhance mutualism benefits.

Short Title:Ecol Entomol
Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith