Colony-structure variation and interspecific competitive ability in the invasive Argentine ant

David A. Holway, Andrew V. Suarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The success of some invasive species may depend on phenotypic changes that occur following introduction. In Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) introduced populations typically lack intraspecific aggression, but native populations display such behavior commonly. We employ three approaches to examine how this behavioral shift might influence interspecific competitive ability. In a laboratory experiment, we reared colonies of Forelius mccooki with pairs of Argentine ant colonies that either did or did not exhibit intraspecific aggression. F. mccooki reared with intraspecifically non-aggressive pairs of Argentine ants produced fewer eggs, foraged less actively, and supported fewer living workers than those reared with intraspecifically aggressive pairs. At natural contact zones between competing colonies of L. humile and F. mccooki, the introduction of experimental Argentine ant colonies that fought with conspecific field colonies caused L. humile to abandon baits in the presence of F. mccooki, whereas the introduction of colonies that did not fight with field colonies of Argentine ants resulted in L. humile retaining possession of baits. Additional evidence for the potential importance of colony- structure variation comes from the Argentine ant's native range. At a site along the Rio de la Plata in Argentina, we found an inverse relationship between ant richness and density of L. humile (apparently a function of local differences in colony structure) in two different years of sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-222
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Aggression
  • Biological invasion
  • Interspecific competition
  • Intraspecific competition
  • Linepithema humile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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