In this study we compared the biology of the Argentine ant, (Linepithema humile) between portions of its introduced range. We examined the hypothesis that there are behavioral and genetic differences between introduced North American populations of this ant. We compared the genetic diversity, behavior, and ecology between Argentine ants across two transects within the United States. One transect was through California, the other crossed three Southeastern states and included North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
We discovered profound differences in the genetic variation and behavior between the two regions. In California, intraspecific aggression was absent and the genetic diversity, as revealed by microsatellite markers, was low. Only 24 alleles were discovered across 7 polymorphic loci. In the Southeast, aggression between neighboring colonies was high and the level of genetic diversity was also higher. Using the same 7 loci, we discovered 49 alleles across the Southeastern populations. Argentine ants were dominant in California, but appeared to be limited in their distribution in the Southeast. In fact, the degree of aggression, genetic diversity, and distribution of Argentine ants in the Southeast, closely resembles that found in the native range. We propose possible mechanisms that might be responsible for the asymmetry in the nature of the introduced populations and discuss the ecological significance of our findings.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Formicidae Linepithema humile (Argentine ant)
Keywords: nestmate recognition, unicoloniality
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