, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 166-173
Date: 30 Mar 2007

Community level impacts of an ant invader and food mediated coexistence

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Ant invasions exert a range of effects on recipient communities, from displacement of particular species to more complex community disruption. While species loss has been recorded for a number of invasion events, a little examined aspect of these invasions is the mechanisms for coexistence with resident ant species.The yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes (Smith), is considered one of the world’s worst ant invaders and has recently undergone rapid population growth in Tokelau. We surveyed the ground-dwelling ant fauna in two plots on each of five invaded and three uninvaded islands across two atolls in Tokelau to examine community characteristics of the ant fauna in areas with and without yellow crazy ants. We also used three types of food bait (tuna, jam and peanut butter) to experimentally test if species are able to coexist by consuming different food resources. Anoplolepis gracilipes was found to coexist with two to six other ant species at any one site, and coexisted with a total of 11 ant species. Four species never co-occurred with A. gracilipes. Non-metric multidimensional scaling showed significant differences in community composition and the relative abundance of species between areas that had, and had not, been invaded by A. gracilipes. The number of other ant species was significantly lower in communities invaded by the yellow crazy ant, but did not decline with increasing A. gracilipes abundance, indicating that impacts were independent of population density. The yellow crazy ant dominated all tuna and jam baits, but had a low attendance on peanut butter, allowing four other ant species to access this resource. Our results demonstrate community level impacts of an ant invader on a tropical oceanic atoll and suggest that differing use of food resources can facilitate coexistence in ant communities.

Received 11 September 2006; revised 15 January 2007; accepted 22 February 2007.