Elevated dominance of extrafloral nectary-bearing plants is associated with increased abundances of an invasive ant and reduced native ant richness

Amy M. Savage, Jennifer A. Rudgers, Kenneth D. Whitney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Aim Invasive ants can have substantial and detrimental effects on co-occurring community members, especially other ants. However, the ecological factors that promote both their population growth and their negative influences remain elusive. Opportunistic associations between invasive ants and extrafloral nectary (EFN)-bearing plants are common and may fuel population expansion and subsequent impacts of invasive ants on native communities. We examined three predictions of this hypothesis, compared ant assemblages between invaded and uninvaded sites and assessed the extent of this species in Samoa. Location The Samoan Archipelago (six islands and 35 sites). Methods We surveyed abundances of the invasive ant Anoplolepis gracilipes, other ant species and EFN-bearing plants. Results Anoplolepis gracilipes was significantly more widely distributed in 2006 than in 1962, suggesting that the invasion of A. gracilipes in Samoa has progressed. Furthermore, (non-A. gracilipes) ant assemblages differed significantly between invaded and uninvaded sites. Anoplolepis gracilipes workers were found more frequently at nectaries than other plant parts, suggesting that nectar resources were important to this species. There was a strong, positive relationship between the dominance of EFN-bearing plants in the community and A. gracilipes abundance on plants, a relationship that co-occurring ants did not display. High abundances of A. gracilipes at sites dominated by EFN-bearing plants were associated with low species richness of native plant-visiting ant species. Anoplolepis gracilipes did not display any significant relationships with the diversity of other non-native ants. Main conclusions Together, these data suggest that EFN-bearing plants may promote negative impacts of A. gracilipes on co-occurring ants across broad spatial scales. This study underscores the potential importance of positive interactions in the dynamics of species invasions. Furthermore, they suggest that conservation managers may benefit from explicit considerations of potential positive interactions in predicting the identities of problematic invaders or the outcomes of species invasions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-761
Number of pages11
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Anoplolepis gracilipes
  • Ant communities
  • Ant invasions
  • Extrafloral nectar
  • Island communities
  • Mutualism


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