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Long-Legged Ants, Anoplolepis gracilipes (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Have Invaded Tokelau, Changing Composition and Dynamics of Ant and Invertebrate Communities
Abstract

This report documents the ongoing invasion of the Tokelau atolls by the long-legged ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes ( Jerdon). These ants were collected from two of the three Tokelau atolls. On the island of Fenua Fala of Fakaofo Atoll, long-legged ants appear to be a recent arrival and occur in only a small area around one of the two ports. Most of the inhabited islands of Vao and Motuhuga on Nukunonu Atoll have been invaded, in addition to several of the uninhabited, forested islands. Despite this ant having been previously recorded from at least one island of Fakaofo and Nukunonu, these appear to be new invasions. Densities of up to 3,603 A. gracilipes per pitfall trap were caught per 24 hr. A significant reduction in ant species diversity was observed with increasing A. gracilipes densities. Densities of this ant were not uniformly high, perhaps due to variation in food availability. Prey such as crabs, ant colonies, and other insects were directly observed being attacked, and long-legged ants were observed to feed on honeydew produced by high densities of aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects on a variety of plants. Interspecific competition was investigated as an additional mechanism for the successful invasion. Long-legged ants found and removed bait faster than the dominant resident ant species, Paratrechina longicornis (Latreille), in forested areas of Nukunonu Island, though needing smaller numbers of recruits to achieve this result. This A. gracilipes invasion is of serious concern for the biodiversity of Tokelau and probably many of the other Pacific islands where these ants have invaded.