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The little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata: a new invasive species in the Middle East and its impact on the local arthropod fauna

Abstract

The little fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, probably arrived in Israel in ca. 1998 and was identified in 2005; this is the first record of this species from open areas outside the tropics and subtropics. It survives harsher conditions than in its native habitats, with minimal annual temperatures as low as 6°C, and 5–12 consecutive rainless months (under 15 mm rainfall per month). It is now known from 26 localities in Israel, mostly in irrigated gardens. As in other regions where they have invaded, these ants pose a serious threat to local biodiversity. At high densities they displaced almost all the local ant species sampled, affecting population abundances, species richness, and community structure. W. auropunctata seems to have a detrimental effect also on other ground arthropods, judging from the observed decline in spider and beetle abundances. We show here that this tropical species can pose a critical threat to local arthropods at a wider range of climatic conditions than was previously known.

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Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Uri Roll for the field and GIS assistance; to Matan Ben-Ari for the field and laboratory assistance and to David Meir, Ariella Gotlieb and Erez Maza for field assistance. We thank Prof. Jacques H. C. Delabie and Dr. Bernhard Seifert for helping to identify the ant species, the late Dr. Gershom Levi for spider identifications and Prof. Vladimir Chikatunov for beetle identifications. We also wish to thank Prof. David Wool, Tal Levanony and Efrat Gavish-Regev for statistical advice, and Dr. Shai Meiri and Prof. Dan Simberloff for their useful comments to early drafts of the manuscript. We thank the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Israeli Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport for supporting the National Collections of Natural History at Tel Aviv University as a biodiversity, environment, and agriculture research knowledge center, and the Jordan Valley Regional Council for their support.

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Correspondence to Merav Vonshak.

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Vonshak, M., Dayan, T., Ionescu-Hirsh, A. et al. The little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata: a new invasive species in the Middle East and its impact on the local arthropod fauna. Biol Invasions 12, 1825–1837 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-009-9593-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-009-9593-2

Keywords

  • Ants
  • Invasive species
  • Israel
  • Invasive ants
  • Wasmannia auropunctata