Is it easy to be urban? Convergent success in urban habitats among lineages of a widespread native ant. Academic Article uri icon


  • The most rapidly expanding habitat globally is the urban habitat, yet the origin and life histories of the populations of native species that inhabit this habitat remain poorly understood. We use DNA barcoding of the COI gene in the widespread native pest ant Tapinoma sessile to test two hypotheses regarding the origin of urban populations and traits associated with their success. First, we determine if urban samples of T. sessile have a single origin from natural populations by looking at patterns of haplotype clustering from across their range. Second, we examine whether polygynous colony structure--a trait associated with invasion success--is correlated with urban environments, by studying the lineage dependence of colony structure. Our phylogenetic analysis of 49 samples identified four well supported geographic clades. Within clades, Kimura-2 parameter pairwise genetic distances revealed <2.3% variation; however, between clade genetic distances were 7.5-10.0%, suggesting the possibility of the presence of cryptic species. Our results indicate that T. sessile has successfully colonized urban environments multiple times. Additionally, polygynous colony structure is a highly plastic trait across habitat, clade, and haplotype. In short, T. sessile has colonized urban habitats repeatedly and appears to do so using life history strategies already present in more natural populations. Whether similar results hold for other species found in urban habitats has scarcely begun to be considered.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Menke, S. B., Booth, W., Dunn, R. R., Schal, C., Vargo, E. L., & Silverman, J.

citation count

  • 39

complete list of authors

  • Menke, Sean B||Booth, Warren||Dunn, Robert R||Schal, Coby||Vargo, Edward L||Silverman, Jules

editor list (cited editors)

  • Moreau, C. S.

publication date

  • February 2010