, Volume 142, Issue 4, pp 643–652 | Cite as

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

Community Ecology


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.


Dominance hierarchy Trait-mediated indirect effect Community structure Formicidae Phoridae 


  1. Abrams PA (1995) Implications of dynamically variable traits for identifying, classifying, and measuring direct and indirect effects in ecological communities. Am Nat 146:112–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams ES, Traniello JFA (1981) Chemical interference competition by Monomorium minimum (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Oecologia 51:265–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersen AN (1992) Regulation of “momentary” diversity by dominant species in exceptionally rich ant communities of the Australian seasonal tropics. Am Nat 140:401–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Appleby MC (1983) The probability of linearity in hierarchies. Anim Behav 31:600–608Google Scholar
  5. Bestelmeyer BT (2000) The trade-off between thermal tolerance and behavioral dominance in a subtropical South American ant community. J Anim Ecol 69:998–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown BV, Feener DH Jr (1991) Behavior and host location cues of Apocephalus paraponerae (Diptera: Phoridae) a parasitoid of the giant tropical ant, Paraponera clavata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Biotropica 23:182–187Google Scholar
  7. Buschinger A, Maschwitz U (1984) Defensive behavior and defensive mechanisms in ants. In: Hermann HR (ed) Defensive mechanisms in social insects. Praeger, New York, pp 95–150Google Scholar
  8. Buss LW (1980) Competitive intransitivity and size-frequency distributions of interacting populations. Proc Natl Acad Sci 77:5355–5359Google Scholar
  9. Buss LW, Jackson JBC (1979) Competition networks: nontransitive competitive relationships in cryptic coral reef environments. Am Nat 113:223–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cerdá X et al (1997) Thermal disruption of transitive hierarchies in Mediterranean ant communities. J Anim Ecol 66:363–374Google Scholar
  11. Cerdá X et al (1998a) Critical thermal limits in Mediterranean ant species: trade-off between mortality risk and foraging performance. Funct Ecol 12:45–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cerdá X et al (1998b) Prey size reverses the outcome of interference interactions of scavenger ants. Oikos 82:99–110Google Scholar
  13. Connell JH (1978) Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199:1302–1310Google Scholar
  14. Cotton PA (1998) Temporal partitioning of a floral resource by territorial hummingbirds. Ibis 140:647–653Google Scholar
  15. Daily GC, Ehrlich PR (1994) Influence of social status on individual foraging and community structure in a bird guild. Oecologia 100:153–165Google Scholar
  16. Detrain C (1990) Field study on foraging by the polymorphic ant species, Pheidole pallidula. Insect Soc 37:315–332Google Scholar
  17. Disney RHL (1994) Scuttle flies: the Phoridae. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Feener DH Jr (1981) Competition between ant species: outcome controlled by parasitic flies. Science 214:815–817Google Scholar
  19. Feener DH Jr et al (1996) Specialized parasitoid attracted to a pheromone of ants. Anim Behav 51:61–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Feener DH Jr (2000) Is the assembly of ant communities mediated by parasitoids? Oikos 90:79–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Feener DH Jr, Brown BV (1992) Reduced foraging of Solenopsis geminata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the presence of parasitic Pseudacteon spp. (Diptera: Phoridae). Ann Entomol Soc Am 85:80–84Google Scholar
  22. Feener DH Jr, Brown BV (1997) Diptera as parasitoids. Annu Rev Entomol 42:73–97CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Fellers JH (1987) Interference and exploitation in a guild of woodland ants. Ecology 68:1466–1478Google Scholar
  24. Folgarait PJ, Gilbert LE (1999) Phorid parasitoids affect foraging activity of Solenopsis richteri under different availability of food in Argentina. Ecol Entomol 24:163–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gaymer CF, et al (2002) Effect of intra- and interspecific interactions on the feeding behavior of two subtidal sea stars. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 232:149–162Google Scholar
  26. Gilpin ME (1975) Limit cycles in competition communities. Am Nat 109:51–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gurevitch J, et al (1992) A meta-analysis of competition in field experiments. Am Nat 140:539–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harris PM (1996) Competitive equivalence in a community of lichens on rock. Oecologia 108:663–668Google Scholar
  29. Hodge S, Arthur W (1997) Asymmetric interactions between species of seaweed fly. J Anim Ecol 66:743–754Google Scholar
  30. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., USAGoogle Scholar
  31. Holway DA (1999) Competitive mechanisms underlying the displacement of native ants by the invasive argentine ant. Ecology 80:238–251Google Scholar
  32. Hubbell SP (2001) The unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeograhy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.Google Scholar
  33. Jackson JBC, Buss L (1975) Allelopathy and spatial competition among coral reef invertebrates. Proc Natl Acad Sci 72:5160–5163Google Scholar
  34. JMP (2000) JMP Statistics and graphics guide, Version 4, 4th edn. SAS Institute, Cary, N.C.Google Scholar
  35. Kaspari M (1996) Worker size and seed size selection by harvester ants in a Neotropical forest. Oecologia 105:397–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. LeBrun EG, Feener DH Jr (2002) Linked indirect effects in ant–phorid interactions: impacts on ant assemblage structure. Oecologia 133:599–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Morrison LW (1996) Community organization in a recently assembled fauna: the case of Polynesian ants. Oecologia 107:243–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Morrison LW (1999) Indirect effects of phorid fly parasitoids on the mechanisms of interspecific competition among ants. Oecologia 121:113–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Morrison LW (2000) Mechanisms of Pseudacteon parasitoid (Diptera: Phoridae) effects on exploitative and interference competition in host Solenopsis ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Ann Entomol Soc Am 93:841–849Google Scholar
  40. Morrison LW et al (2000) Ecological interactions of Pseudacteon parasitoids and Solenopsis ant hosts: environmental correlates of activity and effects on competitive hierarchies. Ecol Entomol 25:433–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Orr MR, et al (1995) Flies suppress fire ants. Nature 373:292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Orr MR, Seike SH (1998) Parasitoids deter foraging by Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) in their native habitat in Brazil. Oecologia 117:420–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Palmer TM, et al (2000) Short-term dynamics of an acacia ant community in Laikipia, Kenya. Oecologia 123:425–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pimm SL, Pimm JW (1982) Resource use, competition, and resource availability in Hawaiian honey creepers. Ecology 63:1468–1480Google Scholar
  45. Porter SD et al (1995) Solenopsis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) fire ant reactions to attacks of Pseudacteon flies (Diptera: Phoridae) in southeastern Brazil. Ann Entomol Soc Am 88:570–575Google Scholar
  46. Sanders NJ, Gordon DM (2003) Resource-dependent interactions and the organization of desert ant communities. Ecology 84:1024–1031Google Scholar
  47. Savolainen R (1991) Interference by wood ant influences size selection and retrieval rate of prey by Formica fusca. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 28:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Savolainen R, Vepsäläinen K (1988) A competition hierarchy among boreal ants: impacts on resource partitioning and community structure. Oikos 51:135–155Google Scholar
  49. Savolainen R, Vepsäläinen K (1989) Niche differentiation of ant species within territories of the wood ant Formica polyctena. Oikos 56:3–16Google Scholar
  50. Schoener TW (1983) Field experiments on interspecific competition. Am Nat 122:240–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Taniguchi Y, Nakano S (2000) Condition-specific competition: implications for the altitudinal distribution of stream fishes. Ecology 81:2027–2039Google Scholar
  52. Toft CA (1984) Resource shifts in bee flies (Bombylidae): interactions among species determine choice of resources. Oikos 43:104–112Google Scholar
  53. Traniello JFA (1983) Social organization and foraging success in Lasius neoniger (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): behavioral and ecological aspects of recruitment communication. Oecologia 59:94–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vance RN (1985) The stable coexistence of two competitors for one resource. Am Nat 126:72–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vries H de (1995) An improved test of linearity in dominance hierarchies containing unknown or tied relationships. Anim Behav 50:1375–1389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vries H de (1998) Finding a dominance order most consistent with a linear hierarchy: a new procedure and review. Anim Behav 55:827–843CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Werner EE, Peacor SD (2003) A review of trait-mediated indirect interactions in ecological communities. Ecology 84:1083–1100Google Scholar
  58. Wilson EO (1984) The relation between caste ratios and division of labor in the ant genus Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 16:89–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA

Personalised recommendations