Biological Invasions

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 73–85 | Cite as

Interference competition by Argentine ants displaces native ants: implications for biotic resistance to invasion

  • Alexei D. Rowles
  • Dennis J. O’Dowd
Original Paper


The Argentine ant Linepithema humile (Dolichoderinae) is one of the most widespread invasive ant species in the world. Throughout its introduced range, it is associated with the loss or reduced abundance of native ant species. The mechanisms by which these native species are displaced have received limited attention, particularly in Australia. The role of interference competition in the displacement of native ant species by L. humile was examined in coastal vegetation in central Victoria (southeastern Australia). Foragers from laboratory colonies placed in the field consistently and rapidly displaced the tyrant ant Iridomyrmex bicknelli, the big-headed ant Pheidole sp. 2, and the pony ant Rhytidoponera victoriae from baits. Numerical and behavioural dominance enabled Argentine ants to displace these ants in just 20 min; the abundance of native species at baits declined 3.5–24 fold in direct relation to the rapid increase in L. humile. Most precipitous was the decline of I. bicknelli, even though species in this typically dominant genus have been hypothesized to limit invasion of L. humile in Australia. Interspecific aggression contributed strongly to the competitive success of Argentine ants at baits. Fighting occurred in 50–75% of all observed interactions between Argentine and native ants. This study indicates that Argentine ants recruit rapidly, numerically dominate, and aggressively displace from baits a range of Australian native ant species from different subfamilies and functional groups. Such direct displacement is likely to reduce native biodiversity and indirectly alter food web structure and ecosystem processes within invaded areas. Biotic resistance to Argentine ant invasion from native ants in this coastal community in southeastern Australia is not supported in this study.


Ant Argentine Australia Biotic resistance Interference competition Invasion Iridomyrmex Linepithema humile nest raids 


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We thank J. Majer, J. Silverman and K. Abbott for comments on an earlier draft and B. Rowles-van Rijswijk for manuscript review and field assistance. T. Craven and P. Davis provided advice on extraction of ants from soil. D. Mackay, M. Burd and M. Thomas advised on the design of laboratory ant colonies. Parks Victoria provided access to sites in the Mornington Peninsula National Park under permit no. 10002268. This is contribution no. 102 from the Australian Centre for Biodiversity: Analysis, Policy and Management at Monash University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Centre for Biodiversity, School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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