Six decades of museum collections reveal disruption of native ant assemblages by introduced species

Douglas B. Booher, Nicholas J. Gotelli, Matthew P. Nelsen, Leo Ohyama, Mark Deyrup, Corrie S. Moreau, Andrew V. Suarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a looming environmental crisis characterized by widespread declines in global biodiversity,1,2,3,4,5,6 coupled with the establishment of introduced species at accelerated rates.7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 We quantified how multi-species invasions affect litter ant communities in natural ecosystems by leveraging museum records and contemporary collections to assemble a large (18,990 occurrences, 6,483 sampled local communities, and 177 species) 54-year (1965–2019) dataset for the entire state of Florida, USA. Nine of ten species that decreased most strongly in relative abundance (“losers”) were native, while nine of the top ten “winners” were introduced species. These changes led to shifts in the composition of rare and common species: in 1965, only two of the ten most common ants were introduced, whereas by 2019, six of ten were introduced species. Native losers included seed dispersers and specialist predators, suggesting a potential loss of ecosystem function through time, despite no obvious loss of phylogenetic diversity. We also examined the role of species-level traits as predictors of invasion success. Introduced species were more likely to be polygynous than native species. The tendency to form supercolonies, where workers from separate nests integrate, also differed between native and introduced species and was correlated with the degree to which species increased in their rank abundances over 50 years. In Florida, introduced ants now account for 30% of occurrence records, and up to 70% in southern Florida. If current trends continue, introduced species will account for over half of occurrence records in all Florida’s litter ant communities within the next 50 years.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2088-2094.e6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number10
Early online dateApr 7 2023
StatePublished - May 22 2023


  • native
  • ants
  • phylogenetic
  • traits
  • functional
  • community
  • diversity
  • abundance
  • invasive
  • non-native

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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