Range expansion in an introduced social parasite-host species pair

Abstract

Dispersal in social parasites is constrained by the presence of suitable host populations, limiting opportunities for rapid range expansion. For this reason, although hundreds of ant species have expanded their ranges through human transport, few obligate social parasites have done so. We test the hypothesis that social parasites expand their ranges more slowly than their hosts by examining the spread of an introduced social parasite-host species pair in North America—the workerless ant Tetramorium atratulum and the pavement ant T. immigrans. In doing so we report a new range extension of T. atratulum in the interior US. Consistent with host limitation on dispersal, we found a time lag ranging from several years to over a century between the arrivals of the host and parasite to a new region. The estimated maximum rate of range expansion in the parasite was only a third as fast as that of the host. We suggest that relative to free-living social insects, social parasites may be less able to rapidly shift their ranges in response to changes in habitat or climate.

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Acknowledgements

This work was done on occupied Anishinaabe land where Hickory Corners, Michigan is now located. We thank local communities and the state of Michigan for maintaining and allowing us to work at the field sites. Three anonymous reviewers provided helpful feedback that improved the manuscript. This paper is Kellogg Biological Station contribution number 2138.  Support for this work was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (Awards DE-SC0018409 and DE-FC02-07ER64494), by the National Science Foundation Long-term Ecological Research Program (DEB 1637653) and Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (DBI 1757530) at the Kellogg Biological Station, and by Michigan State University AgBioResearch.

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Correspondence to Jackson A. Helms IV.

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Helms, J.A., Ijelu, S.E. & Haddad, N.M. Range expansion in an introduced social parasite-host species pair. Biol Invasions 21, 2751–2759 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-019-02011-y

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Keywords

  • Dispersal
  • Formicidae
  • Host limitation
  • Pavement ant
  • Tetramorium atratulum
  • Tetramorium immigrans