Fusion between Southeastern United States Argentine Ant Colonies and Its Effect on Colony Size and Productivity
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The ecological success of invasive ants has been linked to their ability to form expansive supercolonies. In the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr), increased productivity and competitive ability of introduced supercolonies in several places, e.g., California and southern Europe, has been linked to high population densities that could have been attained via fusion of nonaggressive and genetically similar nests. Recently, we have found that introduced L. humile colonies in the southeastern United States, which have higher levels of intraspecific aggression and genetic diversity than those in California and southern Europe, sometimes also fuse; yet it is unclear what the longer term consequences of such colony fusion might be. In this study, we examined whether fusion of these southeastern United States L. humile colonies results in larger colonies by recording colony size and productivity in pairs that fused and in pairs that did not fuse. After 6 mo, colonies that fused produced 47% more workers and had twice as many queens as colony pairs that did not fuse. Also, fused colonies had an overall per capita colony productivity (number of brood and workers produced per queen and per worker) comparable to that of nonfused pairs and unpaired controls. Furthermore, all queens contributed to worker pupae production in fused colonies. Thus, fusion of initially aggressive southeastern United States L. humile colonies results in colonies with higher worker number without decreasing per capita productivity. Moreover, offspring contribution by all queens in fused colonies may alter colony genotypic composition resulting in reduced intraspecific aggression that in turn promotes further fusion. This process may be relevant to the establishment of incipient colonies in areas where multiple introductions have occurred. © 2012 Entomological Society of America.
author list (cited authors)
Vsquez, G. M., Vargo, E. L., & Silverman, J.