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Data from: Introduced ants reduce interaction diversity in a multi-species, ant-aphid mutualism


LeVan, Katherine E.; Barney, Sarah K.; Rankin, Erin E. Wilson (2018), Data from: Introduced ants reduce interaction diversity in a multi-species, ant-aphid mutualism, Dryad, Dataset,


Mutualisms contribute in fundamental ways to the origin, maintenance and organization of biological diversity. Introduced species commonly participate in mutualisms, but how this phenomenon affects patterns of interactions among native mutualists remains incompletely understood. Here we examine how networks of interactions among aphid-tending ants, ant-tended aphids, and aphid-attacking parasitoid wasps differ between 12 spatially paired riparian study sites with and without the introduced Argentine ant Linepithema humile in southern California. To resolve challenges in species identification, we used DNA barcoding to identify aphids and screen for parasitoid wasps (developing inside their aphid hosts) from 170 aphid aggregations sampled on arroyo willow Salix lasiolepis. Compared to uninvaded sites, invaded sites supported significantly fewer species of aphid-tending ants and ant-tended aphids. At invaded sites, for example, we found only two species of ant-tended aphids, which were exclusively tended by L. humile, whereas at uninvaded sites we found 20 unique ant–aphid interactions involving eight species of ant-tended aphids and nine species of aphid-tending ants. Ant–aphid linkage density was thus significantly lower at invaded sites compared to uninvaded sites. We detected aphid parasitoids in 14% (28/198) of all aphid aggregations. Although the level of parasitism did not differ between invaded and uninvaded sites, more species of wasps were detected within uninvaded sites compared to invaded sites. These results provide a striking example of how the assimilation of introduced species into multi-species mutualisms can reduce interaction diversity with potential consequences for species persistence.

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