Range expansion drives the evolution of alternate reproductive strategies in invasive fire ants

Jackson A. Helms IV, Eli S. Bridge
2017 NeoBiota  
Many species are expanding their ranges in response to climate changes or species introductions. Expansion-related selection likely drives the evolution of dispersal and reproductive traits, especially in invasive species introduced into novel habitats. We used an agent-based model to investigate these relationships in the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, by tracking simulated populations over 25 years. Most colonies of this invasive species produce two types of queens practicing
more » ... ens practicing alternate reproductive strategies. Claustral queens found new colonies in vacant habitats, while parasitic queens take over existing colonies whose queens have died. We investigated how relative investment in the two queen types affects population demography, habitat occupancy, and range expansion. We found that parasitic queens extend the ecological lifespan of colonies, thereby increasing a population's overall habitat occupancy as well as average colony size (number of workers) and territory size. At the same time, investment in parasitic queens slowed the rate of range expansion by diverting investment from claustral queens. Divergent selection regimes caused edge and interior populations to evolve different levels of reproductive investment, such that interior populations invested heavily in parasitic queens whereas those at the edge invested almost entirely in claustral queens. Our results highlight factors shaping ant life histories, including the evolution of social parasitism, and have implications for the response of species to range shifts.
doi:10.3897/neobiota.33.10300 fatcat:wxjmhdcptnagvgb6ollc37fz7y