Ascertaining Key Factors Behind the Coexistence of the Native Ant Species Plagiolepis pygmaea with the Invasive Argentine Ant Linepithema humile (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, is a world-wide invasive ant species. Its presence has a strong negative impact on ant diversity. The present study attempts to highlight the reasons for the coexistence of this highly dominant species with Plagiolepis pygmaea, the only native ant species that has proved able to resist the invasion in a natural ecosystem in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. To quantify the aggressiveness level of both species we performed aggressiveness tests on workers in different areas: a) Argentine ant workers from areas with P. pygmaea, b) Argentine ant workers from areas without P. pygmaea, c) P. pygmaea from a non-invaded area and d) P. pygmaea from an invaded area. We also confronted Argentine ant workers with P. pallidula and T. nigerrimum. These aggressiveness tests showed that the coexistence of these two species of ants was not due to a habituation process, since the aggressiveness level observed between the four kinds of confrontations were fairly similar. We also found a lack of aggressiveness between Argentine ant workers and P. pygmaea, and highly submissive behavior in the latter when confronted with the invader. The peaceful character of P. pygmaea together with its markedly submissive behavior may be the main factors behind the coexistence of these species in the study area ​
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