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Variation in the level of aggression, chemical and genetic distance among three supercolonies of the Argentine ant in Europe.
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In their invasive ranges, Argentine ant populations often form one geographically vast supercolony, genetically and chemically uniform within which there is no intraspecific aggression. Here we present regional patterns of intraspecific aggression, cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) and population genetics of 18 nesting sites across Corsica and the French mainland. Aggression tests confirm the presence of a third European supercolony, the Corsican supercolony, which exhibits moderate to high levels of aggression, depending on nesting sites, with the Main supercolony, and invariably high levels of aggression with the Catalonian supercolony. The chemical analyses corroborated the behavioural data, with workers of the Corsican supercolony showing moderate differences in CHCs compared to workers of the European Main supercolony and strong differences compared to workers of the Catalonian supercolony. Interestingly, there were also clear genetic differences between workers of the Catalonian supercolony and the two other supercolonies at both nuclear and mitochondrial markers, but only very weak genetic differentiation between nesting sites of the Corsican and Main supercolonies (F(ST) = 0.06). A detailed comparison of the genetic composition of supercolonies also revealed that, if one of the last two supercolonies derived from the other, it is the Main supercolony that derived from the Corsican supercolony rather than the reverse. Overall, these findings highlight the importance of conducting more qualitative and quantitative analyses of the level of aggression between supercolonies, which has to be correlated with genetic and chemical data.
aggression, cuticular hydrocarbons, Linepithema humile, population genetics, supercolonies
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