Arrival sequence and diet mediate interspecific competition in an ant community

Abstract

The arrival sequence of organisms in a habitat and their diet are two factors that are thought to modulate animal performance, affect the outcome of behavioural interactions, and shape communities. In New Zealand, two species that seldom co-occur in field populations are Prolasius advenus and Monomorium antarcticum. Herein we tested the hypotheses that arrival sequence and diet influence the strength of interactions between these two species. These ant species presented asymmetric responses to arrival sequence and diet variations. When arriving first P. advenus displayed increased aggression and M. antarcticum a defensive reaction. Changes in carbohydrate and protein availability modulated colony activity rates of both species. Colonies of M. antarcticum fed on a high carbohydrate and low protein diet displayed higher activity rates than colonies fed on a low carbohydrate and high protein diet. In contrast, control colonies of P. advenus fed on a high carbohydrate and low protein diet displayed lower activity rates than colonies fed on a low carbohydrate and high protein diet. These results indicate that arrival sequence can modulate the agonistic reaction displayed by interacting species in situations of conflict. This work also demonstrates that species adjust activity rates in response to diet, but different species do so differently. Therefore, arrival sequence and diet could explain species mutually exclusive distribution patterns observed in nature.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Victoria University of Wellington for granting a scholarship to R.F.B. and financially supporting this work. We thank Evan Brenton-Rule and Chris McGrannachan for laboratory and field assistance in ant nest collection. We also thank Monica Gruber and anonymous reviewers for constructive criticism and valuable comments.

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Correspondence to R. F. Barbieri.

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Barbieri, R.F., Grangier, J. & Lester, P.J. Arrival sequence and diet mediate interspecific competition in an ant community. Insect. Soc. 60, 463–473 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-013-0312-8

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Keywords

  • Priority effects
  • Tempo
  • Community assembly
  • Monomorium antarcticum
  • Prolasius advenus