Abstract

Thief ants of the genus Solenopsis are a diverse group of ants that are found in ant communities throughout the world. They have long been purported to practice lestobiosis, an interaction between small and larger-bodied ants, where small ants cryptically tunnel into larger-bodied ant nests within the subterranean environment and steal brood or eggs for consumption. Thief ants are extremely small, measuring 1-2 mm in length and many of the species within this group practice a subterranean life history, where they live the entirety of their lives exclusively belowground. Due to these key characteristics, the ecology and natural history of this group of ants has remained largely unknown despite their noted high abundance within the southeastern United States, especially in upland ecosystems. The purpose of this thesis is to improve our understanding of the ecology of this enigmatic group, providing a solid foundation for future work on their behavior, biology, and natural history. Therefore, this project first attempts to identify key abiotic environmental variables that potentially drive the diversity and distribution of this group in upland ecosystems. Next a field manipulation experiment was conducted in areas of high thief ant density to determine biotic effects between thief ants and the aboveground ant community. This was done by removing thief ants using belowground toxic baits and monitoring co-occurring ant worker abundances throughout a period of approximately 1 year. We found evidence that thief ants dominate belowground and diversity. Our field experiment also yielded evidence indicating that thief ants exert potential top-down regulation on entire ant communities.

Notes

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Graduation Date

2019

Semester

Summer

Advisor

King, Joshua

Degree

Master of Science (M.S.)

College

College of Sciences

Department

Biology

Degree Program

Biology

Format

application/pdf

Identifier

CFE0007696

URL

http://purl.fcla.edu/fcla/etd/CFE0007696

Language

English

Release Date

August 2019

Length of Campus-only Access

None

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Included in

Biology Commons

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