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Argentine ants harm nestlings of the blue tit

The consequences of ant invasions on ecosystems may only become apparent after long periods. In addition, predicting how sensitive native fauna will respond is only possible if the underlying proximate mechanisms of their impact are identified. The attraction of the native and invasive ant community to artificial bird nests was studied, together with reproduction of a wild native songbird over five consecutive breeding seasons in relation to the presence of an invasive ant species. Biometric, reproductive and individual blood parameters of great tits Parus major breeding in invaded as compared to uninvaded sites by Argentine ants Linepithema humile were analysed. Great tits bred preferably in uninvaded territories by the Argentine ant. Moreover, Argentine ants were more abundant at nests in invaded sites, than any native ant species were at uninvaded sites. Further, Argentine ants recruited at the artificial nests more intensively and responded to a larger variety of nest (intact eggs, cracked eggs, faeces, and cracked eggs plus faeces) contents than native species. Although breeding success and adult condition did not vary in relation to invasion status, offspring quality was negatively affected by the presence of Argentine ants. Nestlings reared in invaded sites were lighter, with lower wing/tarsus length ratio and had a reduced nutritional condition and altered oxidative stress balance as measured from several blood parameters. The interspersed distribution and small distance between invaded versus uninvaded territories suggest that ant presence affects nestling condition through direct interference at the nest. These results highlight the importance of evaluating the proximate effects like physiological parameters of the native fauna, when studying invasive ant-native bird interactions. informacion[at] Álvarez et al (2020) Breeding consequences for a songbird nesting in Argentine ant' invaded land. Biol Invasions
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Accommodation of developmental plasticity explains adaptive divergence among spadefoot toads

Accommodation of developmental plasticity explains adaptive divergence among spadefoot toads

Phenotypic differences among species may evolve through genetic accommodation, but mechanisms accounting for this process are poorly understood. Here hormonal variation underlying differences in the timing of metamorphosis among three spadefoot toads with different larval periods and responsiveness to pond drying is compared. Results show that, in response to pond drying, Pelobates cultripes and Spea multiplicata accelerate metamorphosis, increase standard metabolic rate (SMR), and elevate whole-body content of thyroid hormone (the primary morphogen controlling metamorphosis) and corticosterone (a stress hormone acting synergistically with thyroid hormone to accelerate metamorphosis). In contrast, Scaphiopus couchii has the shortest larval period, highest whole-body thyroid hormone and corticosterone content, and highest SMR, and these trait values are least affected by pond drying among the three species. These findings support that the atypically rapid and canalized development of S. couchii evolved by genetic accommodation of endocrine pathways controlling metamorphosis, showing how phenotypic plasticity within species may evolve into trait variation among species. informacion[at] Kulkarni et al (2017) Genetic accommodation via modified endocrine signalling explains phenotypic divergence among spadefoot toad species. Nat Commun doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00996-5