, Volume 136, Issue 4, pp 609-615
Date: 03 Jul 2003

Dominant meat ants affect only their specialist predator in an epigaeic arthropod community

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Abstract

Ants are thought to exert an important influence on the structure of arthropod assemblages through predation and competition. I examined the effect of a dominant ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus, on epigaeic arthropod assemblages on rock outcrops using an exclusion experiment. I compared arthropod assemblages on four replicate outcrops allocated to each of the following treatments: I. purpureus present; I. purpureus absent; I. purpureus excluded; and procedural control. Nests of I. purpureus were caged in summer 2001 and epigaeic arthropod assemblages were sampled at all sites using pitfall traps in autumn and spring 2001 and summer 2002. I also collected items from foraging workers to determine the diet of I. purpureus. Exclusion cages successfully reduced the abundance of I. purpureus workers in pitfall traps by more than 97%. Exclusion of I. purpureus did not affect the size distribution, biomass or abundance of arthropod predators or non-predatory arthropods, although the total biomass of ants was greater at sites with I. purpureus. Spider biomass, species richness, abundance and composition were also not affected by the presence of I. purpureus, although the I. purpureus mimic and specialist predator, Habronestes bradleyi, became less abundant at sites from which I. purpureus was excluded. Predation by I. purpureus on other arthropods may not have a significant effect on epigaeic arthropod communities, but the complex role of I. purpureus in this ecosystem and the high diversity of species belonging to multiple trophic levels may obscure its effects in this system.