Third paper of 2018 is out in Ecological Entomology! Here we look at daily temperature changes, and how such changes regulate activity of red imported fire ants and other native species. This was a pretty fun project that arose from observations during data collection for my first dissertation chapter. Specifically, I was noticing that fire ants were not active at the hottest parts of the day, but many native species that co-occur were. We started to quantify these observations by first measuring ant activity on baits over a month long period during the summer of 2016. The figure below shows some of these results.
We hypothesized that fire ants likely compete with species that have similar traits such as body size and thermal tolerance as these often are correlated with diet and activity, respectively . Dormyrmex flavus was the most similar ant species, so we set up a field based competition experiment to see if fire ants competitively displaced our native D. flavus from resources near their nests. Turns out…they do!
So how does D. flavus coexist in similar environments with fire ants? We argue that dietary differences may be one way and use stable isotope analyses to show that red imported fire ants and D. flavus have different dietary niches. Combined, we believe this study is a nice example of observations leading to ecologically relevant patterns that we test the mechanism of using additional field and lab experiments.
Check out the early version of our paper by [CLICKING HERE]