Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The underdog invader: breeding system and colony genetic structure of the dark rover ant (Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr).

Abstract

Ants are among the most successful species at invading new environments. Their success undeniably comes from their various modes of reproduction and colony breeding structures, which influence their dispersal ability, reproductive potential, and foraging strategies. Almost all invasive ant species studied so far form supercolonies, a dense network of interconnected nests comprising numerous queens, without aggression toward non-nestmates. This strategy results in invasive colonies that are able to grow extremely fast and large while avoiding intraspecific competition, allowing them to monopolize environmental resources and outcompete native species. Here, we developed and used 10 microsatellite markers to investigate the population structure and breeding system of the dark rover ant Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr in its introduced range. We determined whether this species exhibits a supercolonial structure by assessing whether different nests belonged to the same genetic colony. We inferred its dispersal ability by investigating isolation by distance and estimated the numbers of queens per colonies and mating per queen through parent-offspring inferences. We found that most of the colonies of B. patagonicus were comprised of a single nest, headed by a single queen. Each nest was distinct from one another, without isolation by distance, which suggests strong dispersal ability through nuptial flights. These features are commonly observed in noninvasive and native ant species, but they are surprising for a successful invasive ant, as they strongly differ from other invasive ants. Overall, we discuss how this seemingly unfavorable strategy for an invasive ant might favor the invasive success of the dark rover ant in the United States.