Biological Invasions

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1389–1398 | Cite as

Differences in behavioural traits among native and introduced colonies of an invasive ant

  • Olivier Blight
  • Roxana Josens
  • Cleo Bertelsmeier
  • Silvia Abril
  • Raphaël Boulay
  • Xim Cerdá
Original Paper


Identifying the factors that promote the success of biological invasions is a key pursuit in ecology. To date, the link between animal personality and invasiveness has rarely been studied. Here, we examined in the laboratory how Argentine ant populations from the species’ native and introduced ranges differed in a suite of behaviours related to species interactions and the use of space. We found correlations among specific behavioural traits that defined an explorative-aggressive syndrome. The Main “European” supercolony (introduced range) more readily explored novel environments, displayed more aggression, detected food resources more quickly, and occupied more space than the Catalonian supercolony (introduced range) and two other Argentine supercolonies (native range). The two native supercolonies also differed in their personalities; one harbouring the less invasive personality, while the other is intermediate between the two introduced supercolonies. Therefore, instead of a binary pattern, Argentine ant supercolonies display a behavioural continuum that is independent on their geographic origin (native/introduced ranges). Our results also suggest that variability in personality traits is correlated to differences in the ecological success of Argentine ant colonies. Differences in group personalities may facilitate the persistence and invasion of animals under novel selective pressures by promoting adaptive behaviours. We stress that the concept of animal personality should be taken into account when elucidating the mechanisms of invasiveness.


Animal personality Behavioural syndrome Supercolony Invasive ant 



We thank Phil Lester and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the earlier version of the manuscript. This work was funded by the Fyssen Foundation (postdoctoral contract to OB), the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, and the European Regional Development Fund (project CGL2012-36181 to XC and RB). We thank Mrs Jessica Pearce for her English editing services.


  1. Abril S, Gómez C (2010) Aggressive behaviour of the two European Argentine ant supercolonies (Hymenoptera: formicidae) towards displaced native ant species of the northeastern Iberian Peninsula. Myrmecol News 14:99–106Google Scholar
  2. Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J et al (2013) Individual personalities predict social behaviour in wild networks of great tits (Parus major). Ecol Lett 16:1365–1372. doi: 10.1111/ele.12181 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Aplin LM, Farine DR, Mann RP, Sheldon BC (2014) Individual-level personality influences social foraging and collective behaviour in wild birds. Proc R Soc Lond B 281:20141016. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bengston SE, Dornhaus A (2014) Be meek or be bold? A colony-level behavioural syndrome in ants. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 281:20140518. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0518 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blight O, Berville L, Vogel V et al (2012) Variation in the level of aggression, chemical and genetic distance among three supercolonies of the Argentine ant in Europe. Mol Ecol 21:4106–4121CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Blight O, Albet Diaz-Mariblanca G, Cerda X, Boulay R (2016) A proactive-reactive syndrome affects group success in an ant species. Behav Ecol 27:118–125. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arv127 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brandt M, van Wilgenburg E, Tsutsui ND (2009) Global-scale analyses of chemical ecology and population genetics in the invasive Argentine ant. Mol Ecol 18:997–1005. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.04056.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Brodin T, Lind MI, Wiberg MK, Johansson F (2013) Personality trait differences between mainland and island populations in the common frog (Rana temporaria). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 67:135–143. doi: 10.1007/s00265-012-1433-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carere C, Gherardi F (2013) Animal personalities matter for biological invasions. Trends Ecol Evol 28:5–6. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.10.006 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapman BB, Thain H, Coughlin J, Hughes WOH (2011) Behavioural syndromes at multiple scales in Myrmica ants. Anim Behav 82:391–397. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.019 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chapple DG, Simmonds SM, Wong BBM (2012) Can behavioral and personality traits influence the success of unintentional species introductions? Trends Ecol Evol 27:57–62. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.09.010 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Chown SL, Slabber S, McGeouch M et al (2007) Phenotypic plasticity mediates climate change responses among invasive and indigenous arthropods. Proc Biol Sci 274:2531–2537. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0772 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Clavero M, García-Berthou E (2005) Invasive species are a leading cause of animal extinctions. Trends Ecol Evol 20:110. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2005.01.003 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Cote J, Fogarty S, Weinersmith K et al (2010) Personality traits and dispersal tendency in the invasive mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis). Proc Biol Sci 277:1571–1579. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.2128 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Dyer JRG, Croft DP, Morrell LJ, Krause J (2009) Shoal composition determines foraging success in the guppy. Behav Ecol 20:165–171. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arn129 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fogarty S, Cote J, Sih A (2011) Social personality polymorphism and the spread of invasive species: a model. Am Nat 177:273–287. doi: 10.1086/658174 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Giraud T, Pedersen JS, Keller L (2002) Evolution of supercolonies: the Argentine ants of southern Europe. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:6075–6079. doi: 10.1073/pnas.092694199 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Gordon DM, Guetz A, Greene MJ, Holmes S (2011) Colony variation in the collective regulation of foraging by harvester ants. Behav Ecol 22:429–435. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arq218 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Helanterä H, Strassmann JE, Carrillo J, Queller DC (2009) Unicolonial ants: where do they come from, what are they, and where are they going? Trends Ecol Evol 24:341–349. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.01.013 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Holway DA (1999) Competitive mechanisms underlying the displacement of native ants by the invasive Argentine ant. Ecology 80:238–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holway DA, Suarez AV (1999) Animal behavior: an essential component of invasion biology. Trends Ecol Evol 14:328–330. doi: 10.1016/S0169-5347(99)01636-5 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Holway DA, Lach L, Suarez AV et al (2002) The causes and consequences of ant invasions. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 33:181–233. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.33.010802.150444 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hui A, Pinter-Wollman N (2014) Individual variation in exploratory behaviour improves speed and accuracy of collective nest selection by Argentine ants. Anim Behav 93:261–266. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.05.006 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Jandt JM, Bengston S, Pinter-Wollman N et al (2014) Behavioural syndromes and social insects: personality at multiple levels. Biol Rev 89:48–67. doi: 10.1111/brv.12042 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Keiser CN, Jones DK, Modlmeier AP, Pruitt JN (2014) Exploring the effects of individual traits and within-colony variation on task differentiation and collective behavior in a desert social spider. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. doi: 10.1007/s00265-014-1696-9 Google Scholar
  26. Kleeberg I, Pamminger T, Jongepier E et al (2014) Forewarned is forearmed: aggression and information use determine fitness costs of slave raids. Behav Ecol 25:1058–1063. doi: 10.1093/beheco/aru084 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kralj-Fišer S, Schuett W (2014) Studying personality variation in invertebrates: why bother? Anim Behav 91:41–52. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.02.016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lowe S, Browne M, Boudjelas S, De Poorter M (2000) 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species: a selection from the global invasive species database. Invasive Species Specialist Group, Auckland, p 12Google Scholar
  29. Modlmeier AAP, Keiser CN, Shearer TA, Pruitt JN (2014) Species-specific influence of group composition on collective behaviors in ants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 68:1929–1937. doi: 10.1007/s00265-014-1799-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mooney HA, Cleland EE (2001) The evolutionary impact of invasive species. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:5446–5451. doi: 10.1073/pnas.091093398 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Pinter-Wollman N, Gordon DM, Holmes S (2012) Nest site and weather affect the personality of harvester ant colonies. Behav Ecol 23:1022–1029. doi: 10.1093/beheco/ars066 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. Pintor LM, Sih A (2009) Differences in growth and foraging behavior of native and introduced populations of an invasive crayfish. Biol Invas 11:1895–1902. doi: 10.1007/s10530-008-9367-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pintor LM, Sih A, Bauer ML (2008) Differences in aggression, activity and boldness between native and introduced populations of an invasive crayfish. Oikos 117:1629–1636. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2008.16578.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pruitt JN, Keiser CN (2014) The personality types of key catalytic individuals shape colonies’ collective behaviour and success. Anim Behav 93:87–95. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.04.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sakai AK, Allendorf FW, Holt JS et al (2001) The population biology of invasive species. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 32:305–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scharf I, Modlmeier AP, Fries S et al (2012) Characterizing the collective personality of ant societies: aggressive colonies do not abandon their home. PLoS One 7:1–7. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033314 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sih A, Bell A, Johnson JC (2004) Behavioral syndromes: an ecological and evolutionary overview. Trends Ecol Evol 19:372–378. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2004.04.009 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Simberloff D, Martin JL, Genovesi P et al (2013) Impacts of biological invasions: what’s what and the way forward. Trends Ecol Evol 28:58–66. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.07.013 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Suarez AV, Holway DA, Case TJ (2001) Patterns of spread in biological invasions dominated by long-distance jump dispersal: insights from Argentine ants. PNAS 98:1095–1100. doi: 10.1073/pnas.98.3.1095 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. Thomas ML, Payne-Makrisa CM, Suarez AV, Tsutsui ND, Holway DA (2006) When supercolonies collide: territorial aggression in an invasive and unicolonial social insect. Mol Ecol 15:4303–4315. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03038.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Tsutsui ND, Suarez AV, Holway DA, Case TJ (2000) Reduced genetic variation and the success of an invasive species. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97:5948–5953. doi: 10.1073/pnas.100110397 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. van Wilgenburg E, Torres C, Tsutsui ND (2010) The global expansion of a single ant supercolony. Evol App 3:136–143. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2009.00114.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vogel V, Pedersen JS, Giraud T et al (2010) The worldwide expansion of the Argentine ant. Divers Distrib 16:170–186. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2009.00630.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Webster MM, Ward AJW (2011) Personality and social context. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 86:759–773. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2010.00169.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Wolf M, Weissing FJ (2012) Animal personalities: consequences for ecology and evolution. Trends Ecol Evol 27:452–461. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.05.001 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Wray MK, Seeley TD (2011) Consistent personality differences in house-hunting behavior but not decision speed in swarms of honey bees (Apis mellifera). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 65:2061–2070. doi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1215-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wray MK, Mattila HR, Seeley TD (2011) Collective personalities in honeybee colonies are linked to colony fitness. Anim Behav 81:559–568. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.11.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wright CM, Keiser CN, Pruitt JN (2015) Personality and morphology shape task participation, collective foraging and escape behaviour in the social spider Stegodyphus dumicola. Anim Behav 105:47–54. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.04.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivier Blight
    • 1
    • 6
  • Roxana Josens
    • 2
  • Cleo Bertelsmeier
    • 3
  • Silvia Abril
    • 4
  • Raphaël Boulay
    • 5
  • Xim Cerdá
    • 1
  1. 1.Estación Biológica de DoñanaConsejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de Buenos Aires, IFIBYNE, CONICETBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of Lausanne, Le Biophore, UNIL-SorgeLausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of GironaGironaSpain
  5. 5.IRBI, UMR CNRS 7261, Université François Rabelais de ToursToursFrance
  6. 6.Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’EcologieAvignon Université, UMR CNRS IRD Aix Marseille UniversitéAvignonFrance

Personalised recommendations