Biological Invasions

, Volume 10, Issue 7, pp 1171–1181 | Cite as

An invasion revisited: the African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) in northern Australia

Original Paper

Abstract

Long-term studies provide the best information for invasion ecology as multi-temporal sampling can illuminate invasion dynamics, such as population changes and rate of spread. In 1996, Hoffmann et al. surveyed an infestation of African big-headed ant, Pheidole megacephala, in semi-natural rainforest of northern Australia. Here, we re-survey this infestation 9 years later to assess the dynamics of this invasion against the key finding of the initial study. Importantly, we re-sample a site sampled prior to invasion to demonstrate the causal link between an infestation and changes in a native invertebrate community. We found the area infested had almost doubled, and P. megacephala biomass in infested sites was up to 18 times greater than that of native ants in uninfested sites. In the two sites with the youngest infestations in 1996, P. megacephala abundance had increased more than 20-fold than that measured in 1996. Native ant abundance and species richness in infested sites were notably lower in 2005, with only one native ant specimen found in the most recently infested site. The abundance of other macro-invertebrates was the lowest in the three oldest infested sites. Coleoptera and Orthoptera were less abundant in infested sites. This study supports the findings of the first ‘snapshot’ study, and has shown that the area infested has almost doubled, populations are increasing, and ecological impacts remain severe. It reinforces that P. megacephala represents a serious ecological threat, and we argue that there is a greater need for management of this ant globally.

Keywords

Biodiversity Competition Impacts Invertebrates Invasives Rainforest 

References

  1. Abbott KL (2005) Supercolonies of the invasive yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes, on an oceanic island: forager activity patterns, density and biomass. Insect Soc 52:266–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen AN (1991) Responses of ground-foraging ant communities to three experimental fire regimes in a savanna forest of tropical Australia. Biotropica 23:575–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bach CE (1991) Direct and indirect interactions between ants (Pheidole megacephala), scales (Coccus viridis) and plants (Pluchea indica). Oecologia 87:233–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baskin Y (2002) A plague of rats and rubber vines. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  5. Beardsley JW, Su TS, McEwen FL, Gerling D (1982) Field investigations on the interrelationships of the big-headed ant, the gray pineapple mealybug, and the pineapple mealybug wilt disease in Hawaii. Proc Hawaiian Ent Soc 24:51–67Google Scholar
  6. Brimblecombe AR (1958) Damage by ants to plastic sheathed cables. Qld J Ag Sci 15:157–159Google Scholar
  7. CCNT (1982) Howard Springs Nature Park plan of management. Government Printer, DarwinGoogle Scholar
  8. CCNT (1990) Howard Springs Nature Park draft plan of management. Government Printer, DarwinGoogle Scholar
  9. Clarke KR, Gorley RN (2001) Primer v5: User manual Tutorial. Primer-e, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (2001) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Primer-e, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  11. Clavero M, Garcia-Berthou E (2006) Homogenization dynamics and introduction routes of invasive freshwater fish in the Iberian Peninsula. Ecol Appl 16:2313–2324PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cudjoe AR, Neuenschwander P, Copland MJW (1993) Interference by ants in biological control of the cassava mealybug Phenacoccus manihoti (Homoptera: Pseudociccidae) in Ghana. Bull Entomol Res 83:15–22Google Scholar
  13. Erickson JM (1971) The displacement of native ant species by the introduced Argentine ant Iridomyrmex humilis Mayr. Psyche 78:257–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gillespie RG, Reimer N (1993) The effect of alien predatory ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) on Hawaiian endemic spiders (Araneae: Tetragnathidae). Pac Sci 47:21–33Google Scholar
  15. Greenslade PJM (1971) Interspecific competition and frequency changes among ants in Solomon Islands coconut plantations. J Appl Ecol 8:323–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haines IH, Haines JB (1978) Pest status of the crazy ant, Anoplolepis longipes (Jerdon) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Seychelles. Bull Entomol Res 68:627–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Haskins CP, Haskins EF (1965) Pheidole megacephala and Iridomyrmex humilis in Bermuda: equilibrium or slow replacement. Ecology 46:736–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Haskins CP, Haskins EF (1988) Final observations on Pheidole megacephala and Iridomyrmex humilis in Bermuda. Psyche 95:177–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Heterick B (1997) The interaction between the coastal brown ant, Pheidole megacephala (Fabricius), and other invertebrate fauna of Mt Coot-tha (Brisbane, Australia). Aust J Ecol 22:218–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hochberg Y, Tamhane AC (1987) Multiple comparison procedures. Wiley & Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Hoffmann BD (2003) Pest ants and their management on the Tiwi Islands. Consultancy report to the Tiwi Land Council. CSIRO, DarwinGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoffmann BD (2004) Exotic ants threaten Indigenous lands. Austr Sci 25:26–28Google Scholar
  23. Hoffmann BD, O’Connor S (2004) Eradication of two exotic ants from Kakadu National Park. Ecol Manage Res 5:98–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hoffmann BD, Andersen AN, Hill GJE (1999) Impact of an introduced ant on native rainforest invertebrates: Pheidole megacephala in monsoonal Australia. Oecologia 120:595–604Google Scholar
  25. Hoffmann BD, Kay A, Crocetti S (2004) Pest ant assessment on Tryon, Northwest, Heron and the Lady Musgrave islands in the Capricornia Cays National Park, Queensland. Report to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. CSIRO, DarwinGoogle Scholar
  26. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Belknap Press, MAGoogle Scholar
  27. Holway DA (1998) Effect of Argentine ant invasions on ground-dwelling arthropods in northern California riparian woodlands. Oecologia 116:252–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holway DA (1999) Competitive mechanisms underlying the displacement of native ants by the invasive Argentine ant. Ecology 80:238–251Google Scholar
  29. Holway DA, Suarez AV (2006) Homogenization of ant communities in Mediterranean California: the effects of urbanization and invasion. Biol Conserv 127:319–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Holway DA, Lach L, Suarez AV, Tsutsui ND, Case TJ (2002) The causes and consequences of ant invasions. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 33:181–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jahn GC, Beardsley JW (1994) Big-headed ants, Pheidole megacephala: interference with the biological control of Gray Pineapple Mealybugs. In: Williams DF (ed) Exotic ants: biology, impact, and control of introduced species. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 199–205Google Scholar
  32. Jarvis E (1931) Ants in canefields and buildings. Qld Agric J 35:360–362Google Scholar
  33. King JR, Tschinkel WR (2006) Experimental evidence that the introduced fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, does not competitively suppress co-occurring ants in a disturbed habitat. J Anim Ecol 75:1370–1378PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krushelnycky PD, Joe SM, Medeiros AC, Daehler CC, Loope LL (2005) The role of abiotic conditions in shaping the long-term patterns of a high-elevation Argentine ant invasion. Divers Distrib 11:319–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lester PJ, Tavite A (2004) Long-legged ants, Anoplolepis gracilipes (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), have invaded Tokelau, changing composition and dynamics of ant and invertebrate communities. Pac Sci 58:391–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lieberburg I, Kranz PM, SEIP A (1975) Bermudian ants revisited: the status and interaction of Pheidole megacephala and Iridomyrmex humilis. Ecology 56:473–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Majer JD (1976) The influence of ants and ant manipulation on the cocoa farm fauna. J Appl Ecol 13:157–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Majer JD (1985) Recolonisation by ants of rehabilitated mineral sand mines on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, with particular reference to seed removal. Aust J Ecol 10:31–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Majer JD, de Kock AE (1992) Ant recolonization of sand mines near Richards Bay, South Africa: an evaluation of progress with rehabilitation. S Afr J Sci 88:31–36Google Scholar
  40. Medeiros AC, Loope LL, Cole FR (1986) Distributions of ants and their effects on endemic biota of Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks: a preliminary assessment. Proc Sixth Conf in Nat Sci, Hawaii Volcanoes Nat Park Coop, Nat Park Resources Study Unit, Univ of Hawaii, Manoa, Honolulu, pp 39–52Google Scholar
  41. Menke SB, Holway DA (2006) Abiotic factors control invasion by Argentine ants at the community scale. J Anim Ecol 75:368–376PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Moller H (1996) Lessons for invasion theory from social insects. Biol Conserv 17:125–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Morrison LW (2002) Long-term impacts of an arthropod-community invasion by the imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Ecology 83:2337–2345Google Scholar
  44. O’Dowd DJ, Green PT, Lake PS (2003) Invasional ‘meltdown’ on an oceanic island. Ecol Lett 6:812–817CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Passera L (1994) Characteristics of tramp species. In: Williams DF (ed) Exotic ants: biology, impact, and control of introduced species. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 23–43Google Scholar
  46. Perkins RCL (1913) Introduction. In: Sharp D (ed) Fauna Hawaiiensis 1(6):i–ccxxvii. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp xli–xliiGoogle Scholar
  47. Porter SD, Savignano DA (1990) Invasion of polygyne fire ants decimates native ants and disrupts arthropod community. Ecology 71:2095–2106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rao NS, Veeresh GK, Viraktamath AC (1989) Association of crazy ant, Anoplolepis longipes (Jordon) with different fauna and flora. Indian J Ecol 16:205–208Google Scholar
  49. Simberloff D, Gibbons L (2004) Now you see them, now you don’t—population crashes of established introduced species. Biol Invasions 6:161–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Suarez AV, Bolger DT, Case TJ (1998) Effects of fragmentation and invasion on native ant communities on coastal southern California. Ecology 79:2041–2056CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Taylor JA, Dunlop CR (1985) Plant communities of the wet-dry tropics of Australia: the Alligator Rivers region, Northern Territory. Proc Ecol Soc Aust 13:183–128Google Scholar
  52. Taylor JA, Tulloch D (1985) Rainfall in the wet-dry tropics: Extreme events at Darwin and similarities between years during the period 1870–1983 inclusive. Aust J Ecol 10:281–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thomas ML, Holway DA (2005) Condition-specific competition between invasive Argentine ants and Australian Iridomyrmex. J Anim Ecol 74:532–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vanderwoude C, Lobry de Bruyn LA., House APN (2000) Response of an open-forest ant community to invasion by the introduced ant, Pheidole megacephala. Austral Ecol 25:253–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Way MJ, Cammell ME, Paiva MR, Collingwood CA (1997) Distribution and dynamics of the Argentine ant Linepithema (Iridomyrmex) humile (Mayr) in relation to vegetation, soil conditions, topography and native competitor ants in Portugal. Insectes Soc 44:415–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wetterer JK, Banko PC, Laniawe LP, Slotterback JW, Brenner GJ (1998) Non-indigenous ants at high elevations on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i. Pac Sci 52:228–236Google Scholar
  57. Wetterer JK, Espadeler X, Wetterer AL, Aguin-Pombo D, Franquinho-Aguiar AM (2006) Long-term impact of exotic ants on the native ants of Madeira. Ecol Entomol 31:358–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Williams DF (1994) Control of the introduced pest Solenopsis invicta in the United States. In: Williams DF (ed) Exotic ants: biology, impact, and control of introduced species. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 282–292Google Scholar
  59. Wright SP (1992) Adjusted P-values for simultaneous inference. Biometrics 48:1005–1013CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsTropical Ecosystems Research CentreDarwinAustralia
  2. 2.Environmental Change InstituteOxford University Centre for the EnvironmentOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations