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The Relationship between Food Preference and Invasibility in Argentine ants


Urbanization creates novel environments that constrain the availability of natural resources, like food, which can often be a limiting factor in determining where species may establish and survive. Compared to natural habitats that have supported native fauna for hundreds of years, urban areas provide novel habitats and food sources that native species may not be able to exploit. Instead, we see the proliferation of invasive species in these areas, because they can adapt and survive on a wide variety of food sources that most native species cannot. One species of concern is the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), an invasive species that has been able to out compete native ants throughout the world, by displaying plastic responses to novel environments. Yet, little is understood about how urbanization affects behaviors such as food preference, which may be disproportionately supporting invasive species in urban landscapes. To determine food preference in the Argentine ant, I examined the differences in food preference between two invasive populations of Argentine ants - from natural and from urban environments. Because these two habitat types provide divergent food sources, we may be able to uncover how urban areas skew food availability and affect preference in invasive species.

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