An experimental study of competition between fire ants and Argentine ants in their native range

E. G. LeBrun, C. V. Tillberg, A. V. Suarez, P. J. Folgarait, C. R. Smith, D. A. Holway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An understanding of why introduced species achieve ecological success in novel environments often requires information about the factors that limit the abundance of these taxa in their native ranges. Although numerous recent studies have evaluated the importance of natural enemies in this context, relatively few have examined how ecological success may result from differences in the magnitude of interference competition between communities in the native and introduced ranges of nonnative species. Here we examine how native-range competitive environments may relate to invasion success for two important invasive species, the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), in a region of native-range sympatry. At two study sites in northern Argentina, we used stable-isotope analysis, a variety of observational approaches, and two different reciprocal removal experiments to test (1) whether S. invicta competes asymmetrically with L. humile (as suggested by the 20th century pattern of replacement in the southeastern United States) and (2) the extent to which these two species achieve behavioral and numerical dominance. Stable-isotope analysis and activity surveys indicated that S. invicta and L. humile are both omnivores and forage during broadly overlapping portions of the diel cycle. Short-term removal experiments at baits revealed no competitive asymmetry between S. invicta and L. humile. Longer-term colony removal experiments illustrated that S. invicta and L. humile experience an approximately equal competitive release upon removal of the other. Our results indicate that neither S. invicta nor L. humile achieves the same degree of behavioral or ecological dominance where they co-occur in native populations as they do in areas where either is common in their introduced range. These results strongly suggest that interspecific competition is an important limiting factor for both S. invicta and L. humile in South America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Argentina
  • Argentine ant
  • Competition
  • Fire ant
  • Invasion
  • Linepithema humile
  • Removal experiment
  • Solenopsis invicta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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