, Volume 142, Issue 4, pp 643-652
Date: 30 Nov 2004

Who is the top dog in ant communities? Resources, parasitoids, and multiple competitive hierarchies

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Abstract

A wide variety of animal communities are organized into interspecific dominance hierarchies associated with the control and harvest of food resources. Interspecific dominance relationships are commonly found to be linear. However, dominance relations within communities can form a continuum ranging from intransitive networks to transitive, linear dominance hierarchies. How interference competition affects community structure depends on the configuration of the dominance interactions among the species. This study explores how resource size and the trait-mediated indirect effect (TMIE) specialist phorid fly parasitoids exert on interference competition, affect the transitive nature of competitive interactions in an assemblage of woodland ants. I quantify the linearity of networks of interactions associated with large and small food resources in the presence and absence of phorid parasitoids. Two distinct, significantly linear dominance hierarchies exist within the ant assemblage depending on the size of the disputed resource. However, the presence of phorid fly parasitoids eliminates the linearity of both dominance hierarchies. The host’s phorid defense behaviors reduce the competitive asymmetries between the host and its subdominant competitors, increasing the indeterminacy in the outcome of competitive interactions. Thus, both resource size variation and phorid-induced TMIEs appear to facilitate coexistence in assemblages of scavenging ants.