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Native predators living in invaded areas: responses of terrestrial amphibian species to an Argentine ant invasion


Predator–prey interactions play a key role in the success and impacts of invasive species. However, the effects of invasive preys on native predators have been poorly studied. Here, we first reviewed hypotheses describing potential relationships between native predators and invasive preys. Second, we examined how an invasive prey, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), affected a native terrestrial amphibian community. In the field, we looked at the structure of the amphibian community in invaded versus uninvaded areas and characterized amphibian trophic ecology. The amphibian community sampled seemed to show a species-dependent response in abundance to invasion: adults of the natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), the species demonstrating the highest degree of ant specialization, were less abundant in invaded areas. Although available ant biomass was significantly greater in invaded than in uninvaded areas (only Argentine ants occurred in the former), amphibians consumed relatively fewer ants in invaded areas. In the lab, we quantified amphibian consumption of Argentine ants versus native ants and assessed whether consumption patterns could have been influenced by prior exposure to the invader. The lab experiments corroborated the field results: amphibians preferred native ants over Argentine ants, and prior exposure did not influence consumption. Differences in preference explained why amphibians consumed fewer Argentine ants in spite of their greater relative availability; they might also explain why the most ant-specialized amphibians seemed to avoid invaded areas. Our results suggest the importance to account for predator feeding capacities and dietary ranges to understand the effects of invasive species at higher trophic levels.

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We thanks R. Arribas, O. Blight, E. Guirlet, N. Guirlet, and P. Serpe for their help with sampling and C. Díaz-Paniagua, I. Gómez-Mestre and R. Boulay for their scientific input.

Author information

EA, XC and SC conceived the ideas. SC and EA collected the data in the field and SC prepared the samples for isotopic analyses. PA-B and EA conducted the laboratory experiments and analyzed the data. PA-B led the writing of the manuscript and all the authors revised it.

Correspondence to Stephane Caut.

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This study was funded by the Consolider MONTES project (CSD 2008-00040); the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and FEDER (CGL2012-36181, CGL2013-43660-P); and fellowships to P.A.-B. (FPI program, CGL2012-36181), to S.C. (the Juan de la Cierva) and E.A. (Ramón y Cajal).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All applicable institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Communicated by Peter Banks.

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Alvarez-Blanco, P., Caut, S., Cerdá, X. et al. Native predators living in invaded areas: responses of terrestrial amphibian species to an Argentine ant invasion. Oecologia 185, 95–106 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-017-3929-x

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  • Biotic resistance
  • Enemy release
  • Exotic prey naïveté
  • Invasive prey
  • Linepithema humile