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Effects of Introduced Plants on Diet and Seed Preferences of Pogonomyrmex carbonarius (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Patagonian Steppe.

Research paper by Laura M LM Aput, Alejandro G AG Farji-Brener, Gabriela I GI Pirk

Indexed on: 24 May '19Published on: 28 Mar '19Published in: Environmental entomology



Abstract

Invasive species may interact with resident species and disrupt previously established interactions, with effects on the whole community. If introduced seeds are selectively consumed by native granivores, this could limit the establishment or spread of invasive plants (biotic resistance), and reduce the predation pressure upon native seeds. We determined if the presence of introduced plants affects the diet and the seed preferences of the ant Pogonomyrmex carbonarius (Mayr) in a Patagonian steppe. We expected a higher proportion of introduced seeds in the diet of nests located in areas with a high abundance of introduced species (roadsides) than in nests located in low invaded areas. Diet composition was obtained by collecting items retrieved by workers to colonies and compared between areas of contrasting abundance of introduced species. Field-based choice experiments were performed to evaluate whether exotic seeds were preferred to native ones under a paired comparisons design. Native seeds predominated in the diet. A low proportion of introduced species were included only in colonies close to the road. Ants preferred native seeds to introduced ones, and showed a marked preference for seeds of the native grass Pappostipa speciosa (Trin. & Rupr.) Romasch. (Poaceae), typical of the Patagonian steppe. The presence of introduced plants had little influence on interactions of P. carbonarius with seeds in the Patagonian steppe. Therefore, this ant species would not exert a control on the studied introduced plants, illustrating a case of low biotic resistance to invasion by these species. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.