PLoS ONE (2019) 14 (11 - e0225597)

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Edward G. LeBrun, Robert M. Plowes, Patricia J. Folgarait, Martin Bollazzi and Lawrence E. Gilbert (2019)
Ritualized aggressive behavior reveals distinct social structures in native and introduced range tawny crazy ants
PLoS ONE 14 (11 - e0225597)
Abstract: How workers within an ant colony perceive and enforce colony boundaries is a defining biological feature of an ant species. Ants fall along a spectrum of social organizations ranging from single-queen, single nest societies to species with multi-queen societies in which workers exhibit colony-specific, altruistic behaviors towards non-nestmate workers from distant locations. Defining where an ant species falls along this spectrum is critical for understanding its basic ecology. Herein we quantify queen numbers, describe intraspecific aggression, and characterize the distribution of colony sizes for tawny crazy ant (Nylanderia fulva) populations in native range areas in South America as well as in their introduced range in the Southeastern United States. In both ranges, multi-queen nests are common. In the introduced range, aggressive behaviors are absent at all spatial scales tested, indicating that within the population in the Southeastern United States N. fulva is unicolonial. However, this contrasts strongly with intraspecific aggression in its South American native range. In the native range, intraspecific aggression between ants from different nests is common and ritualized. Aggression is typically one-sided and follows a stereotyped sequence of escalating behaviors that stops before actual fighting occurs. Spatial patterns of non-aggressive nest aggregation and the transitivity of non-aggressive interactions demonstrate that results of neutral arena assays usefully delineate colony boundaries. In the native range, both the spatial extent of colonies and the average number of queens encountered per nest differ between sites. This intercontinental comparison presents the first description of intraspecific aggressive behavior for this invasive ant and characterizes the variation in colony organization in the native-range, a pre-requisite to a full understanding of the origins of unicoloniality in its introduced range.
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Full text of article
Database assignments for author(s): Edward G. LeBrun, Patricia J. Folgarait, Martin Bollazzi, Lawrence E. Gilbert

Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
general biology - morphology - evolution

Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.

Nylanderia fulva Argentina
Nylanderia fulva Uruguay
Nylanderia fulva U.S.A. (mid S)
Nylanderia fulva U.S.A. (SE)