Environmental context alters ecological trade-offs controlling ant coexistence in a spatially heterogeneous region
Article first published online: 25 AUG 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Ecological Entomology © 2011 The Royal Entomological Society
Volume 36, Issue 5, pages 549–559, October 2011
How to Cite
WIESCHER, P. T., PEARCE-DUVET, J. M. C. and FEENER, D. H. (2011), Environmental context alters ecological trade-offs controlling ant coexistence in a spatially heterogeneous region. Ecological Entomology, 36: 549–559. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.2011.01301.x
- Issue published online: 13 SEP 2011
- Article first published online: 25 AUG 2011
- Accepted 27 May 2011, First published online 25 August 2011
- Ants (Formicidae);
- behavioural dominance;
- spatial heterogeneity;
- species coexistence;
- thermal tolerance
1. Ecological trade-offs in ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) assemblages and their implications for coexistence boast a rich history in entomology. Yet investigations of trade-offs have largely been limited to homogeneous environments. We examined how environmental context modifies trade-off expression in an ant assemblage spanning a heterogeneous region in central Florida, U.S.A.
2. We examined how trade-off expression is altered among two contrasting habitat types: open shrub and forest. We tested for the presence of the dominance-discovery trade-off and two dominance-thermal tolerance trade-offs by estimating behavioral dominance, discovery ability, and thermal tolerance (foraging thermal limit, lethal temperature, and maximal abundance temperature) for a wide range of interacting ant species.
3. We found significantly linear dominance hierarchies in both shrub and forest habitats, showing dominant species out-compete subordinates for food resources. In thermally stressful shrub habitats, subordinates exhibit higher thermal tolerances, take greater thermal risks, and reach maximum forager abundances at higher temperatures than do dominant species. This suggests temperature mediated trade-offs control coexistence in shrub habitat. In thermally moderate forest habitat, we found limited evidence for trade-offs between competitive dominance and resource discovery or between dominance and thermal traits, implying other processes control coexistence. These results demonstrate that trade-offs controlling ant coexistence may be contingent on environmental context.