Consistent signatures of urban adaptation in a native, urban invader ant Tapinoma sessile. Academic Article uri icon


  • Biological invasions are becoming more prevalent due to the rise of global trade and expansion of urban areas. Ants are among the most prolific invaders with many exhibiting a multiqueen colony structure, dependent colony foundation and reduced internest aggression. Although these characteristics are generally associated with the invasions of exotic ants, they may also facilitate the spread of native ants into novel habitats. Native to diverse habitats across North America, the odorous house ant Tapinoma sessile has become abundant in urban environments throughout the United States. Natural colonies typically have a small workforce, inhabit a single nest, and are headed by a single queen, whereas urban colonies tend to be several orders of magnitude larger, inhabit multiple nests (i.e., polydomy) and are headed by multiple queens (i.e., polygyny). Here, we explore and compare the population genetic and breeding structure of T.sessile within and between urban and natural environments in several localities across its distribution range. We found the social structure of a colony to be a plastic trait in both habitats, although extreme polygyny was confined to urban habitats. Additionally, polydomous colonies were only present in urban habitats, suggesting T.sessile can only achieve supercoloniality within urbanized areas. Finally, we identified strong differentiation between urban and natural populations in each locality and continent-wide, indicating cities may restrict gene flow and exert intense selection pressure. Overall, our study highlights urbanization's influence in charting the evolutionary course for species.

published proceedings

  • Mol Ecol

altmetric score

  • 7.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Blumenfeld, A. J., Eyer, P., Helms, A. M., Buczkowski, G., & Vargo, E. L.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Blumenfeld, Alexander J||Eyer, Pierre-AndrĂ©||Helms, Anjel M||Buczkowski, Grzegorz||Vargo, Edward L

publication date

  • January 2022