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      Evolution of supercolonies: The Argentine ants of southern Europe

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          Abstract

          Some ants have an extraordinary social organization, called unicoloniality, whereby individuals mix freely among physically separated nests. This type of social organization is not only a key attribute responsible for the ecological domination of these ants, but also an evolutionary paradox and a potential problem for kin selection theory because relatedness between nest mates is effectively zero. The introduction of the Argentine ant in Europe was apparently accompanied by a dramatic loss of inter-nest aggression and the formation of two immense supercolonies (which effectively are two unicolonial populations). Introduced populations experienced only limited loss of genetic diversity at neutral markers, indicating that the breakdown of recognition ability is unlikely to be merely due to a genetic bottleneck. Rather, we suggest that a "genetic cleansing" of recognition cues occurred after introduction. Indeed workers of the same supercolony are never aggressive to each other despite the large geographical distance and considerable genetic differentiation between sampling sites. By contrast, aggression is invariably extremely high between the two supercolonies, indicating that they have become fixed for different recognition alleles. The main supercolony, which ranges over 6,000 km from Italy to the Spanish Atlantic coast, effectively forms the largest cooperative unit ever recorded.

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          Most cited references 13

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          COMPETITIVE MECHANISMS UNDERLYING THE DISPLACEMENT OF NATIVE ANTS BY THE INVASIVE ARGENTINE ANT

           David Holway (1999)
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            ARTHROPODS IN URBAN HABITAT FRAGMENTS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: AREA, AGE, AND EDGE EFFECTS

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              Loss of intraspecific aggression in the success of a widespread invasive social insect

              Despite the innumerable ecological problems and large economic costs associated with biological invasions, the proximate causes of invasion success are often poorly understood. Here, evidence is provided that reduced intraspecific aggression and the concomitant abandonment of territorial behavior unique to introduced populations of the Argentine ant contribute to the elevated population densities directly responsible for its widespread success as an invader. In the laboratory, nonaggressive pairs of colonies experienced lower mortality and greater foraging activity relative to aggressive pairs. These differences translated into higher rates of resource retrieval, greater brood production, and larger worker populations.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                April 30 2002
                April 16 2002
                April 30 2002
                : 99
                : 9
                : 6075-6079
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.092694199
                122904
                11959924
                © 2002
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