Biological Invasions

, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 1123–1129 | Cite as

A Disjunct Argentine Ant Metacolony in Macaronesia and Southwestern Europe



The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, originally from South America, is now a major pest in many parts of the world with Mediterranean-like climates. Earlier research indicated that southwestern European L. humile populations are segregated into two distinct supercolonies, the ‘Main’ supercolony extending through Portugal, Spain, southern France, and Italy, and the ‘Catalonian’ supercolony in eastern Spain. Both supercolonies are unicolonial, with workers showing no aggression towards members of the same supercolony, but severe aggression towards members of the other supercolony. Here we evaluated the behavioral relationships among non-native L. humile populations on the Macaronesian islands of Madeira and the Azores and non-native populations in southwestern Europe. We conducted aggression assays among L. humile workers from Madeira, the Azores, and the two southwestern European supercolonies. We found no aggressive interactions among any combination of workers from Madeira, the Azores, and the Main supercolony. However, workers from Madeira and the Azores always fought aggressively with workers from the Catalonian supercolony. Thus, the populations of L. humile in Madeira and the Azores appear to be unicolonial and act as if they belong to the Main supercolony of southwestern Europe. This set of geographically separated but mutually compatible supercolonies, which we term a ‘metacolony,’ appears to descend from one supercolony. Historical evidence suggests that the first L. humile population in the greater Mediterranean region was established in Madeira and that propagules from the dominant supercolony in Madeira gave rise to the dominant supercolonies in to other parts of the region.


Argentine ant Azores biological invasion founder effect invasive ants Linepithema humile Madeira metacolony nestmate recognition supercolony unicoloniality 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baroni Urbani C (1968). Studi sulla mirmecofauna d’Italia. IV. La fauna mirmecologica delle isole Maltesi ed il suo significato ecologico e biogeografico. Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale “Giacomo Doria” 77: 408–559Google Scholar
  2. Bernard F (1968). Faune de l’Europe et du Bassin Méditerranéen. 3. Les fourmis (Hymenoptera Formicidae) d’Europe occidentale et septentrionale. Masson, Paris Google Scholar
  3. Buczowsk G, Vargo EL and Silverman J (2004). The diminutive supercolony: the Argentine ants of the southeastern United States. Molecular Ecology 13: 2235–2242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Casevitz-Weulersse J (1974). Premières données pour une étude écologique des fourmis de la Corse. Bulletin d’Ecologie 5: 55–70Google Scholar
  5. Chopard L (1921). La fourmi d’Argentine Iridomyrmex humilis var. arrogans Santschi dans le midi de la France. Annales des Epiphyties 7: 237–265 Google Scholar
  6. Coutinho MP (1929). A “formiga argentina” “Iridomyrmex humilis” Mayr “var. arrogans”, Santschi. Boletim do ␣Ministério da Agricultura, Ano XI(13–18): 95–116 Google Scholar
  7. Donisthorpe H (1927). The ants (Formicidae) and some myrmecophiles, of Sicily. Entomological Record and Journal of Variation 39: 6–9 Google Scholar
  8. (1952). The Argentine ant Iridomyrmex humilis (Mayr). Farming in South Africa 54: 381–384 Google Scholar
  9. Espadaler X (2005) The ants of El Hierro (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 78, in pressGoogle Scholar
  10. Forel A (1895). Südpalaearctische Ameisen. Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gessellschaft 9: 227–234 Google Scholar
  11. García-Mercet R (1923). Sobre la Icerya purchasi y la hormiga argentina. Bolletin de la Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural 23: 14–15 Google Scholar
  12. Giraud T, Pedersen JS and Keller L (2002). Evolution of supercolonies: the Argentine ants of southern Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 99: 6075–6079 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heller NE (2004). Colony structure in introduced and native populations of the invasive Argentine ant, Linepithema humile. Insectes Sociaux 51: 378–386 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hölldobler B and Wilson EO (1990) The Ants.Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  15. Holway DA, Suarez AV and Case TJ (1998). Loss of intraspecific aggression in the success of a widespread invasive social insect. Science 282: 949–952 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Human KG and Gordon DM (1997). Effects of Argentine ants on invertebrate biodiversity in Northern California. Conservation Biology 11: 1242–1248 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Krieger MJB and Keller L (1999). Low polymorphism at 19 microsatellite loci in a French population of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile). Molecular Ecology 8: 1082–1084 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kutter H (1981). Iridomyrmex humilis Mayr (Hym., Formicidae), Gattung und Art neu für die Schweiz. Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gessellschaft 54: 171–172 Google Scholar
  19. Le Breton J, Delabie JHC, Chazeau J, Dejean A and Jourdan H (2004). Experimental evidence of large-scale unicoloniality in the tramp ant Wasmannia auropunctata (Roger). Journal of Insect Behavior 17: 263–271 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Martins MN (1907). Une fourmi terrible envahissant l’Europe (Iridomyrmex humilis Mayr). Brotéria, Series Zoología 6: 101–102 Google Scholar
  21. Mayr G (1868). Formicidae novae Americanae collectae a Prof. P. de Strobel. Annuario della Società dei Naturalisti e Matematici, Modena 3: 161–178 Google Scholar
  22. Novák V (1947). Exotictí mravenci ve sklenících Prazské botanické zahrady. Acta Societatis Entomologicae Cechoslovenicae 44: 144–146 Google Scholar
  23. Pasfield G (1968). Argentine ants. Australian Natural History 16: 12–15 Google Scholar
  24. Pax F (1915). Beobachtungen über das Auftreten der “argentinischen Ameisen,” Iridomyrmex humilis Mayr, in Schlesien. Ilustr. Schles. Monathschr. Obst.-Gemüse-Gartenbau, Breslau 4: 33 Google Scholar
  25. Schmitz E (1896). As formigas da Madeira. Annaes de Sciencias Naturaes 3: 55–58 Google Scholar
  26. Schmitz E (1897). As formigas da Madeira. Annaes de Sciencias Naturaes 4: 77 Google Scholar
  27. Stitz H (1939). Hautflüger oder Hymenoptera. 1 Ameisen oder Formicidae. Die Tierwelt Deutschlands und der angrenzenden Meeresteile nach ihren Merkmalen und nach ihrer Lebenweise 37: 1–428 Google Scholar
  28. Suarez AV, Tsutsui ND, Holway DA and Case TJ (1999). Behavioral and genetic differentiation between native and introduced populations of the Argentine ant. Biological Invasions 1: 43–53 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tsutsui ND, Suarez AV, Holway DA and Case TJ (2000). Reduced genetic variation and the success of an invasive species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 97: 5948–5953 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tsutsui ND, Suarez AV and Grosberg RK (2003). Genetic diversity, asymmetrical aggression, and recognition in a widespread invasive species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 100: 1078–1083 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wheeler WM (1927). The ants of the Canary Islands. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 62: 93–120 Google Scholar
  32. Wild A (2004). Taxonomy and distribution of the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 97: 1204–1215 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. (1994). Exotic Ants. Biology Impact and Control␣of Introduced Species. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wilkes Honors CollegeFlorida Atlantic UniversityJupiterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology, Evolutionary, & Environmental BiologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations