Interactions between invasive prey and native predators can provide an opportunity to better understand predator– prey dynamics and how these may change through ontogeny. Eastern Fence Lizards (Sceloporus undulatus (Bosc and Daudin in Sonnini and Latreille, 1801)) are ant specialist, particularly as juveniles. Invasive red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta Buren, 1972) pose a lethal risk to S. undulatus that eat them, especially smaller-bodied juveniles. We examine ontogenetic shifts in S. undulatus consumption of toxic invasive fire ants versus palatable native pyramid ants (Dorymyrmex bureni (Trager, 1988)). We predicted that hatchlings should avoid eating fire ants in favor of native ants, whereas less-vulnerable adults should take advantage of both prey sources. However, when given the choice between fire ants and native ants, hatchlings consumed similar numbers of these species, whereas adults consumed nearly three times as many native ants as invasive fire ants. Increased consumption of fire ants in adulthood could be the result of lifetime experience, strategies to safely consume fire ants, ontogenetic shifts in the ability to distinguish between ants, or reduced costs to adults of eating venomous ants. Future research should aim to distinguish these alternative mechanisms and examine the long-term consequences of native species incorporating toxic invasive prey into their diets.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology