Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Globally invasive populations of the clonal raider ant are derived from Bangladesh.

Abstract

Identifying the native range of invasive species is useful to understand their evolution and natural history, as well as to develop new methods to control potentially harmful introduced organisms. The clonal raider ant, Ooceraea biroi, is an introduced species and an increasingly important social insect model organism, but its native range remains unknown. Here, we report a new series of O. biroi collections from Bangladesh, Singapore, Vietnam and China. We use a molecular phylogeny constructed with five gene fragments from 27 samples to determine that invasive lineages of O. biroi originated in Bangladesh. These lineages may have spread from Bangladesh via the historically significant Bay of Bengal shipping ports. Ooceraea biroi shares multiple features of its biology with other introduced ants, including parthenogenesis, retention of heterozygosity and presence of multiple egg-layers in the colony. Using laboratory rearing and microsatellite markers, we show that colonies collected from disturbed habitat in Bangladesh have these traits in common with colonies from the invasive range. Ancestral populations with sexual reproduction in primary habitats either remain to be discovered or have gone extinct. Our findings advance our understanding of the global spread of the clonal raider ant and highlight a suite of general traits that make certain ants prone to becoming invasive.